For the members of the Dearborn Public Schools Board of Education and the district administration, selling Howe Elementary School and moving its programs to the current Ten Eyck headquarters, then moving its central office to the new city hall is a complex issue dependent on several factors.
The city, which is planning to move its City Hall facilities to a new location, had hoped to get the school on board with applying for a joint services grant through the state that could have awarded them up to $800,000 for combining their services. The board last month .
But beyond that, other issues play into the decision to sell Howe and shuffle around their buildings—such as whether the district will ask voters for a millage or a sinking fund, the value of the Howe facility, and the costs associated with retrofitting the Ten Eyck facility to accommodate the needs of students, many of whom are physically disabled.
The district has been in talks with Oakwood Healthcare about the purchase of Howe. The school sits near the company's main hospital on Oakwood Boulevard.
“What was brought up at the (Nov. 27 school board) meeting is that the Administrative Services Center would be turned back into a school,” David Mustonen, the district spokesman, explained. “But the board is looking at whether that would be efficient and cost effective; that it’s not just shuffling kids around.
"We can’t make decisions in a vacuum."
Mustonen said the factors that could lead to a sale would be the value of the Howe facility; the fact that Dearborn Schools will likely be asking for more taxes, and whether its the best decision for students.
“The board is looking at: where are the biggest needs, what do we need to do,” Mustonen said.
A sinking fund, by law, has to be used for building repairs and upgrades, and if approved by voters, could be used to make repairs at Howe. Or, the funds could also be used to pay for renovations at Ten Eyck, should the district headquarters move to the new city hall.
Howe houses several special education programs, and the district’s Montessori School. But because the building is antiquated and need of repairs, there could be some advantages to moving students into the Ten Eyck facility, which has a more modern layout.
Mustonen said the district would need to expend significant amounts of money to make repairs at Howe in the future, but would also also have to expend dollars to retrofit the Ten Eyck building if the moves were to come to pass. And there would be costs associated with moving in and out of each facility, he added.
At the board's regular meeting Dec. 10, Trustee Hussein Berry expressed concern over how information about the potential sale of Howe is being meted out of the board offices.
“Last week I was approached by a student that asked if we sold his school,” said Berry, noting that media coverage of the issue was causing discussion, and that the district needed to make sure the correct information was getting out.
For his part, Supt. Brian Whiston said the administration doing the best it can to balance all the issues and consequences of such a move, and will keep the board informed about the potential sale so trustees can make an informed decision.