On Sunday, October 16, about 50 Old Mission Peninsula residents gathered at the Peninsula Township Hall to discuss next steps for the future of Old Mission Peninsula School (OMPS).
Following a community meeting with Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) Superintendent Paul Soma in October 2015, in which he discussed the closure of OMPS because of low enrollment, a group of OMPS parents and Old Mission Peninsula residents met regularly to find a sustainable way to keep the school open and available to all members of the educational community.
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As we reported last week, an offer of $750,000 for the OMPS building, contents and property has now been submitted to TCAPS by the Old Mission Peninsula Education Foundation (OMPEF), a community-based non-profit formed in September 2016 to support education programming on Old Mission Peninsula.
The offer – technically, a letter of intent – has been forwarded to TCAPS’ board finance committee, which will review and discuss it at their next meeting on Nov. 2 at 9 a.m. TCAPS officials had previously set a Nov. 30, 2016 deadline to determine the future of OMPS.
An appraisal conducted by Michael Tarnow of Northern Michigan Real Estate Consultants indicated that the value of the school and property ranges from $575,000 (sales comparison approach, as a vacant building) to $1.5 million (income approach, as an operating charter school).
The June 2016 appraisal indicates that the OMPS building, which was remodeled and expanded by TCAPS in 2006, is 38,335 square feet and sits on 15.10 acres zoned agricultural. Download the full appraisal here.
The mood at the meeting on Sunday was upbeat and positive, as the group discussed the current situation and ways to move forward. Allison O’Keefe, President of the Old Mission Peninsula Education Foundation, noted that on Friday, October 14, they had received a formal letter back from Soma indicating that TCAPS would move forward as if the Foundation’s Letter of Intent was a formal offer.
If an agreement is reached for the Foundation to purchase the school and continue working with TCAPS to provide education, O’Keefe said that TCAPS wants the overhead costs of $400,000 per year pre-funded for a certain number of years, whether there are 300 or 20 kids at the school.
“That conversation was extremely lengthy and detailed and confusing because there are other pieces that the foundation has been talking about,” said O’Keefe. “We want to provide extra programming at the school, so that we can make ourselves unique and different.”
She cited the OMPS frog pond, sugar shack and weather station as examples of programs that could be expanded, with Foundation funds possibly paying for teacher training and field trips to OMPS for students at other area schools.
The overall feeling of the group was that if the Foundation’s offer is accepted by TCAPS, it would be a win-win situation for both parties, including:
- TCAPS receives no-strings money, which can be used across the district as they see fit.
- The Old Mission Peninsula community gains back the OMPS building and land, which can be used for sustainable educational purposes.
- The Foundation is offering TCAPS a viable option for moving forward without closing OMPS.
- TCAPS would have the beginnings of a foundation support prototype to expand throughout the community as others have been doing for decades. More than 60 foundations exist throughout Michigan, set up to support public schools with private funding.
- By selling OMPS to the Foundation, TCAPS would avoid vacancy costs; TCAPS already has several vacant school buildings that were closed in recent years.
- Taxpayers in the region spent money to renovate OMPS as an elementary school, and TCAPS has an obligation to either maintain it for its intended use (for a school) or sell it to a public organization that can sustain it. (TCAPS is set to make decisions on the reconstruction of Eastern Elementary School within the next few weeks.)
- Selling OMPS would also demonstrate willingness of TCAPS to work with the community.
Thoughts? Sound off in the comments section below.