Thursday, November 18, 1999

New Tecumseh school to relieve crowding

New Tecumseh school to relieve crowding
The Ann Arbor News
By Pamela Appea

Plans for Tecumseh’s new high school are well under way, with 100 percent of the property cleared, 90 percent of initial site work completed and construction bids presented to the school board last week, said Richard Fauble, new superintendent for the Tecumseh school district.

School officials say the current high school is bursting at its seams with 976 high school students. Adding to the crowding problem are 260 eight-graders housed at the high school building for some of their classes because of similar space concerns at Tecumseh Middle School.

Although teachers and administrators said the high school is coping with its present student population, many add the age of the facility and a rapidly growing community have pushed Tecumseh High School to its limits.

Rodney Jenkins, principal of Tecumseh High School, said the school would ideally be comfortable housing no more than 1,000 students.

“We are so overcrowded and I knew that is true of a lot of districts in the Ann Arbor area. Some of the our programs are limited because we don’t have room to do what we need to do,” said French teacher Jan Wilson, a 25-year veteran at Tecumseh High School.

With an expected opening date of August 2001, the new high school will have a planned capacity of 1,200 students.

The new facility will be at 760 Brown St., half a mile west of the current high school, district officials said.

At 208,000 square feet, the new high school will have two floors, 50 teaching stations and a submerged bottom level that will house the school gymnasium.

Along with the shift to a new building, Tecumseh High School will greet the first year of the millennium with two full student-access computer labs, a computer in each classroom and rommier classrooms for group projects, Jenkins said.

Art department director Ron Frenzen said plans have been made to enlarge or enchance the space for elective classes like art, band and gym.

For example, Frenzen said, art classes will take place in three classrooms in the new building up from two rooms at the current high school.

Rooms will be specialized Frenzen said. He said the new high school will house a clay and sculpture room, a two-dimension design and drawing room and a jewelry and photography room, in additino to an outdoor area for art projects.

“At the high school we are absolutely ecstatic to move to a facility that we regard as a palace. We e are very pleased that the community has been so favorable to support the high school endeavor,” Jenkins said.

Community residents such as James Elliott, 85, have been active in the new school project since 1998.

Elliott, who lives across the street from the former 90-acre cornfield site, at first opposed the idea. He didn’t like the thought of hearing hundreds of cars and dozens of buses going past his house each day.

But during a public meeting in Tecumseh in September of 1998, Tecumseh School District Business Manager Tom Emery asked Elliott to be part of a community committee for the new high school.

Elliott agreed. Now the Saginaw native and retired post office worker is an active committee member working closely with architects on design and landscaping plans.
“It involves a lot of community effort,” Elliott said.

The entire project is expected to cost $33 million dollars school officials said.
Tom Emery said taxpayers will balance the financial load for the next 21 years, making the length of the levy a total of 22 years.

Emery said a Tecumseh homeowner with a home worth of $100,00- dollars may pay up to $200 more on his or her annual taxes to fund the new school.

Emery noted the district must stay within the budget for the new high school. “The total cost can’t get bigger. With the bond issue, that’s all we have,” he said.

Looking ahead, the principal said school administrators have thought it essential to plan past the next five or ten years--especially since Tecumseh is one of many areas in Lenawee and Washtenaw countries that has rapidly expanded in recent years.

“The way our new building is built, we are prepared for even more growth,” Jenkins said.
Likening the new plan to a “giant Lego,” Jenkins said it would be easy to add an additional eight classrooms if students and teachers at the new high school face overcrowding concerns again.
Plans are being made for Tecumseh Middle School to shift over to Tecumseh’s current high school in 2001, relieving space concerns at that level.

Originally published Thursday, November 18, 1999