Home All VIDEO: Possible OMPS Closing Discussed at Meeting with TCAPS Superintendent Paul Soma

VIDEO: Possible OMPS Closing Discussed at Meeting with TCAPS Superintendent Paul Soma

Oct. 21, 2015: TCAPS Superintendent Paul Soma at OMPS Meeting | Jane Boursaw Photo
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Vicki Shurly, Peninsula Community Library Director | Jane Boursaw Photo
Vicki Shurly, Peninsula Community Library Director | Jane Boursaw Photo

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. 

A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper.

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  1. Great representation…thanks to each of you! Where should letters of support be sent from those of us from afar?
    1963 8th Grade Graduate

  2. Listening last evening to Mr. Soma’s comments, it was clear that changes in small-value line items in the budget are not going to produce a result which is significant enough to make the difference between the school staying viable and open, or closing. One possibility my wife, Sue, thought of was perhaps establishing a field center at the school in some of the under-utilized space which could be a remote laboratory for students in some of MSU’s research programs. Since the school is literally in the middle of a significant fruit producing region (cherries, apples to name only the two that come quickly to mind), wouldn’t it make sense for MSU’s AgBioResearch program to send students on externships to our location where they could conduct their field work without significant travel? And since we are situated between two large bays, wouldn’t it make sense for MSU’s Center for Water Services to utilize some of the space in our school? Yet another program that might use the school and generate some revenue for TCAPS would be MSU’s Great Lakes Bioenergy Research program. I don’t know how contacts with MSU would be established, but certainly someone in TCAPS would be able to research that and make some inquiries, and if such utilization led to efficiencies for MSU as well as saving the school, everyone would be a winner!

  3. I couldn’t attend the meeting but met personally with one of the school board members. I grew up at OM, along with my cousins and brothers. The school is in my heart even if I no longer live on the Peninsula.
    I would like to see OMPS become a STEM school. (Science Technology Engineering and Math).
    I also suggested “renting” rooms to other entities such as Head Start or other service industries. As long as the people who rent those rooms pass background checks why couldn’t they use the unused space?
    I lived downstate in the Holland area for a few years before moving back and their school districts rented unused rooms to fill the space and bring in income.
    I will continue to support OMPS and want to see it be used in ways that other children can have the same positive memories as I did.


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