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School district's reconfiguration stalled by residents opposed to proposed changes

Holland residents opposed to the school district's upcoming reconfiguration have stalled the process on the state level and may disrupt the target finish date of fall 2012, costing the district thousands of dollars.

Superintendent Dennis Johnson on Tuesday updated the School Board on the progress of the reconfiguration, which will move all Holland students into two of the district's three buildings. He was clearly perturbed about the delay on what had been considered an ambitious construction schedule.

He said he submitted the architectural plans to the state Education Department for approval March 30. On April 3, he asked for the plans to be expedited.

But that request was denied several days later after the Education Department received a petition from residents opposed to the reconfiguration, the superintendent said.

By slowing the project, the district could shoulder an additional $40,000 in funding costs, not to mention second and third shift expenses once the work gets under way, Johnson said.

Christina Kelly, mother of three, who started the petition that was signed by 220 residents, said she had her reasons.

"I do not feel we're doing the right thing spending a million dollars to put our kids on Route 16 [the location of the planned reconfigured elementary school]. Obviously, I have kids in the district. I'm emotionally involved, but I'm a taxpayer, too, so I'm financially involved."

The superintendent said he expects the Education Department to eventually approve the plans that will bring universal prekindergarten and grades K-4 to join grades 5-6 at the middle school, while the high school will house grades 7-12.

He answered critics complaining about the cost by saying that 82 percent of the project will be covered by state aid and that the district's remaining expense, $255,000, will be paid off in 17 years.

Additionally, business leader Patrice Beadle expressed her concerns that the 2012-13 budget was developed assuming the efficiencies of a reconfigured district would be in place. Any delay could wreak havoc on the expense line, she said.

In other matters, the board formally abolished more than 25 positions in the district, with board member Judith Geer saying, "Thank you, and I want to express my regrets that this day ever had to come."