By Alyssa McCarty
Tribune Recorder Leader
It is no secret that Carsonville-Port Sanilac Schools have reached a turning point in their existance. When the shared services agreement ended between CPS and Croswell-Lexington schools, anger and panic ensued in the community.
“There’s a fine line between anger and shock,” Louise Blasius, President of the CPS school board says. “I think it was shock that people were feeling.”
“The rumor that we were closing shook everyone up when it was never even considered,” Blasius adds. The school board held several meetings with outside consultants and discussed what the school’s options were, and although closing the district was listed as an option, it was never an option that was considered.
An option that has been discussed extensively is closing the elementary school and moving grades Kindergarten through fifth grade to the high school. However, the school board is leaning towards leaving the elementary open. The high school would need to be renovated and modernized in order to house the elementary students, costing the district more money than leaving the cost-efficient elementary building running.
The school’s enrollment has been decreasing in the recent years, resulting in a lack of revenue but Gale Travis, Superintendant of CPS Schools, explains that the school district’s largest issue is not money. “We’re fine economically. The district has done a great job sizing administration and teachers to the amount of kids that we have,” Travis says. Althought it will be a struggle with the loss of kids, Travis explains that the school’s most troubling problem is the lack of confidence from the community. “A lot of really good people have lost confidence, taking resources with them when they leave,” he adds.
“We are fighting the confidence issue. We have to convince people that we are going to be open for the next ten years,” Travis says. He explains that parents do not want to send their children, especially elementary aged students, to a school that they think is going to close in the near future. Rather, they want their children to finish their education and graduate from the same school.
In order to improve CPS Schools and draw more students to the district, the school board is paying close attention to the main reasons for students leaving. Blasius and Travis both agree that the main reasons for enrollment decrease are the lack of choice for classes and teachers, lack of athletic choice, and the uncertainty of the school’s future. A lack of elective courses and athletic teams for Junior Varisty and Middle School aged students does not appeal to students.
The school board has began thinking of creative ways in which to offer students more choices and met with the Department of Education to discuss what electives they could offer. One of the board’s main goals is to focus on individual curriculum for every student in the high school.
“Ninety percent of students will fit into the state curriculum and be happy, but for those who don’t, we’re going to rewrite their curriculum,” Travis says. “With virtual learning, we can get nearly any classes you want,” he adds. The school plans on taking advantage of the education that the CPS community has to offer, as well. Allowing students to study at the Barn Theatre in the summer or doing ceramics with a local business were only two of the examples Travis gave.
The school board hopes to combat the loss of confidence in the school district by giving correct information to parents. They are currently producing a complete booklet of course options for students as well as a brochure on what makes CPS unique.
“We have to stress our strengths, make our smallness our strength, not a weakness,” Travis says. Listed in the brochure are the school’s TLC daycare program, alternative education program, and allowing the elementary students to finish the school year at Camp Ozanam each spring. The board hopes to improve all that is unique to CPS by expanding the virtual learning program as well as adding more positive activities for Middle School aged students, like drama and more class trips.
That being said, the most obvious strengths of Carsonville-Port Sanilac Schools are the educators and support of the community.
“Our teachers have stepped up to the challenge,” Blasius says. They offer, not only an education that prepares students for a sucessful future, but support when it is needed.
“Of all the people I have spoken to, no one has ever said their kid hasn’t gotten a good education,” Travis says.
“I think students feel a certain self-confidenence when graduating,” Blasius adds.
Although the recent months have been stressful for Carsonville-Port Sanilac Schools, the school board, faculty, staff, and community have worked diligently and proudly together towards a brighter future for the school.