About 200 Old Mission Peninsula residents and concerned citizens crowded into the gym at the Old Mission Peninsula School tonight to discuss the school’s possible closing with TCAPS superintendent Paul Soma (pictured above).
The crowd was passionate about keeping this unique school open, and the meeting was respectful and open, with Soma outlining the financial situation and hearing comments from the crowd. The bottom line is that TCAPS schools with enrollment under 200, including OMPS and Interlochen, are on the chopping block.
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Speakers included Heatherlyn Johnson Reamer, who spoke about the Peninsula’s agricultural community; Vicki Shurly, who spoke about the Peninsula Community Library, which is housed inside the school; Realtor Shawn Schmidt Smith; Old Mission Women’s Club President Nancy Davy; Peninsula Township Supervisor Pete Correia; and Sarah Kroupa.
Soma called the meeting “very, very constructive” and appreciated the openness of those who spoke and offered suggestions and ideas.
Highlights of the comments:
If OMPS is closed, Soma felt that the “asset” (school and property) would not be sold. But he also said he felt that a solution would be found.
A parent with five kids said they purchased a home on the Peninsula specifically so their kids could attend OMPS.
Discussion took place regarding Eastern Elementary, and whether OMPS students would go there or Eastern students would attend OMPS. Also, Eastern is in need of restoration, whereas OMPS was restored several years ago. Why invest money into Eastern when OMPS is already restored?
Because of the high property values and taxes on the Peninsula and lack of affordable housing, many young families can’t afford to live here, which contributes to the lower enrollment numbers at OMPS.
Someone suggested bringing grades 6, 7 and 8 back to OMPS, which would boost enrollment.
Former OMPS outdoor educator Mary Manner suggesting exploring other revenue opportunities for the OMPS property, including outdoor education (the school includes a frog pond, woodland trail and outdoor amphitheater) and teacher education during the summer months.
One parent mentioned the idea of starting school a little later, to coordinate better with kids dropping kids off at school and then heading to work in town.
Someone suggested exploring the idea of a community endowment, as there may be Peninsula residents who would be willing and able to help financially.
Peninsula resident Josh Wunsch suggested that perhaps it’s time to disassociate OMPS with TCAPS and buy the property back. (Some of those who were around in the 1950s never wanted OMPS to merge with the Traverse City schools – including my dad, Walter Johnson, who was on the school board at the time.)
A parent noted that she drives her kids from Chum’s Corners to OMPS (rather than attending nearby Blair School) because of the high quality of the school, teachers and experience at OMPS.
Peninsula farmer Dean Johnson noted that migrant workers are an important part of the community, and that the farmers have built housing for those families.
Former OMPS principal Karen Schmidt noted that the migrant and Hispanic kids (many of whose families work on the farms and vineyards on the Peninsula) were always taken care of and embraced by the OMPS community.
Were you at the meeting? What solutions would you like to see explored to keep OMPS open? Sound off in the comments below.