The Huron Valley School Board has extended the amount of time it will allow the Village of Milford and Highland Township to decide whether they will purchase Baker Elementary and Highland Middle School.
If neither local government makes an offer to purchase the vacant school building in their respective towns, the district will then entertain offers from the public to either sell the buildings, or demolish the buildings.
School Board Trustee Chuck Dittmar was the only person on the board to vote against the extension.
A change to the resolution allowing the extension was proposed by Dittmar, but that change was voted down with only school board trustees Jeff Long and Dittmar voting in support of it. Had it passed, Highland and Milford would have had until June to make a decision, and they would also have had the option of leasing the buildings, as opposed to only buying them.
"I think it only makes sense to allow for the leasing option," Dittmar said at the June 21 meeting. "Considering the economy, and the fact that everyone's budgets are tight, leasing allows more flexibility for Highland and Milford. They might have interest in using these buildings, but not the ability to buy them."
Dittmar said leasing also makes sense, because as the economy rebounds residents might return to the area. "If we see an influx in students, those buildings will be there and we could potentially reopen them as schools."
Dittmar cited Brooks Elementary in White Lake as an example where this scenario has worked. Brooks Elementary was closed in the 1980's but reopened when the district experienced growth. Dittmar said Brooks is now a strong, vibrant school.
Board President Sean Carlson said the district has already had some positive talks with the Milford, and the village council has expressed an interest in Baker Elementary.
Carlson said the administration has not yet met with Highland Township, but plans to do so at one of the upcoming township board meetings, "Supervisor Triscia Pilchowski requested we meet with the entire board so we could weigh the options."
Highland's local government has been vocal in its displeasure with the how the school board has handled the vacant buildings. In April, the township board sent a letter to the school district stating members felt Highland Township has been made to suffer "the greatest inconvenience of all." The township now has two closed schools within its boundaries.
Should neither community make an offer to buy the buildings, and should no other offers to purchase be made by other groups, the district will have the option to demolish the buildings - an option board trustee Lisa Blackwell said she's not in favor of doing.
Carlson also alluded to problems with Highland Middle School, and the youth baseball league that currently operates at the site of the building. Carlson stated the group, the Huron Valley Youth Baseball and Softball League, has spent a substantial amount of time and money improving the facilities located on the Highland Middle School grounds, and that efforts will be made to protect those investments should the building be sold or demolished.
Milford and Highland have until March 31, 2013 to take up the issue. Carlson said if either board makes a good-faith effort to look at their options, the board will work with the township and village past the deadline.
What would you like to see happen at Highland Middle School?