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Holland mulls student relocation

The Holland School District Facilities Committee this week wrangled over a topic that has all but consumed the district this year: where and how to consolidate its shrinking student population.

Despite a board-approved plan to relocate all the elementary students into the middle school and bump up seventh- and eighth-graders from that building into the high school, minority opposition on the board and from the community has stalled the move.

The reconfiguration, estimated to cost about $900,000, slipped through the board on a 4-3 vote earlier this year.

However, the June 30 departure of Stephen Welk, one of the board members who favored mothballing the elementary school, will likely erase that majority.

So with blueprints sprawled across the table, the summer construction season and the new fiscal year fast approaching, Superintendent Dennis Johnson asked the facilities committee Monday how to proceed.

Committee member Ronda Strauss echoed her familiar sentiments, that only the seventh- and eighth-graders should be upended this year while plans to shutter the elementary school and relocate the youngest students should be reconsidered.

"I'm not married to either one of these scenarios, but I want to make sure we make the right decision. My concern is the community. This has just been thrown out there. There's been no time to digest it," she said.

Kelleen Kensey, also on the Facilities Committee and one of the board members who approved the original plan, maintained her previous stance.

"I think the middle school is a better fit all the way around and for the long term. We talked to administrators; principals made those recommendations," she said.

High School Principal Jim Biryla expressed concern that the delays could affect accommodations he needs for the seventh- and eighth-grades moving into the high school building this fall. He said lack of space could result in seventh- and 12th-graders having to share a gym class.