Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

New Public High School: "Environmental Education"?

21. July 2005 • MarkDilley
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Contributed by Alan Pagliere:

People should be aware of what is happening in Tree Town. Ann Arbor Public Schools is saying they are building a big-box school to provide an “environmental education.” In order to do so, they have destroyed a 109-acre natural site, filled in wetlands, stripped more than a quarter of an old Oak/Hickory woods, cut down hundreds of landmark trees around the site, cut off a wildlife corridor and will encourage gas-guzzling by paving for 800 parking spaces.

This is all in addition to the traffic and demographic issues that should have stopped the school from being put on the Maple Road / M-14 site. The school will not improve class size and projections of student population show a new, 1600 student school is not needed. In order to get this done, the AAPS has lied to the public, avoided naming the site on the bond proposal and ballot, and ignored calls from the Sierra Club to protect the site. It has talked about voluntary compliance with ordinances (since legally it is above those laws), but has not complied with city wetland ordinances.

See photos of the devastation at ProposedHighSchool.org

Write the School Board: boe@aaps.k12.mi.us
and the Ann Arbor News
and the City Council

The photos are stark and quite depressing.



  1. I’ve got two kids who are going to be shoved into a high school where more than 2,000 others go to school. I like that less than cutting down a few trees. What would you propose for my kids that will provide high quality education, and be affordable, and be done in time so my kids don’t have to go to the oversized schools?
       —JennyD    Jul. 21 '05 - 04:39PM    #
  2. Alan’s subject line refers to this as the proposed high school.

    This high school is not proposed. It was already approved by 61% of Ann Arbor voters on June 14th, 2004.

    Maybe for some people democracy is a drag, but the majority of this community supports and is enthusiastic about this school.

    It would be nice if Citizens for Responsible Schools, which between legal fees and staff time has taken well over $100,000 of AAPS money out of the classroom this year, would accept the fact that it has exhausted all its options and that it’s time to move on.
       —Tom Jensen    Jul. 21 '05 - 05:35PM    #
  3. JennyD – a few trees is one thing. An endangered animal in a fragile environment is another, especially if they’re not taking the proper steps to transplant it.

    Tom- Just because voters passed a ballot initiative does not mean they knew the details of the project. Saying a majority is ‘enthusiastic’ is a bit of a stretch.

    Still, I’d like to know more.
       —Matt Hollerbach    Jul. 21 '05 - 07:04PM    #
  4. Matt,

    It came out in the Ann Arbor News in mid-June that there was no endangered species on the school site.

    The type of salamander on the school site is actually one that is far from endangered- either way appropriate steps are being taken to ensure that it continues to thrive on the site.
       —Tom Jensen    Jul. 21 '05 - 08:04PM    #
  5. Of course, there’s nothing like a construction site in process to convey a vision of “devestation”.

    I’m puzzled by the characterization of the “big-box school.” Big-box carries with it certain associations which, to my mind, don’t apply to this new building at all. (I will agree that it is bigger than my house and is probably bigger than yours, but that doesn’t make it “big-box,” it just makes it big, and only then when compared to other kinds of buildings. I’m not sure that it really meets a criterion for “big” compared to other high schools.)

    They “ignored calls from the Sierra Club to protect the site.” But was the Sierra Club’s call something that needed to be followed? Because it was an undeveloped site, the Sierra Club would certainly oppose development. They would probably have opposed development at any site large enough to accommodate a new high school.

    I also question how providing 800 parking spaces “encourages gas guzzling.” Building a school further away from the city center and forcing everyone who does commute to travel further might be argued to be “encouraging gas guzzling.” It may be an unfortunate fact that, even in Ann Arbor, we are a commuter culture. But providing parking spaces at a public building doesn’t really rise to the level of “encouraging gas guzzling.”
       —archipunk    Jul. 22 '05 - 08:57AM    #
  6. archipunk –
    If you provide the parking, people will use it. If you don’t provide the parking, people will look for another option – either of transportation mode or destination.

    A school is one of those places that, traditionally, has a very good other transportation option (school buses, anyone?), and that doesn’t allow people the option of choosing another destination. Captive audience.

    If no parking was provided on-site, you would fill the buses going to that school. With plentiful parking (and plentiful drop-off space), you’ll likely see minimal transit (school or city) to the site, because there’s “not enough demand” for it.

    Building parking spaces – pretty much anywhere, public building or no – does “encourage gas guzzling.” If all of the staff and students are driving to school, nobody will think, “Oh, I’d better look for a house where I have good access to the school for me or my kids.” The students will drive to school, and then they’ll drive around after school – providing parking at the school, allowing students to bring their cars to school, encourages those students to use their cars after school. Not providing parking, preventing students from bringing cars, means those students will not be able to access car-dependant locations after school.

    Any car-friendly development, regardless of what it is, encourages further car-oriented land use and transportation patterns, therefore “encouraging gas guzzling.” Any car-limited development encourages further non-car-oriented (i.e. people-oriented) land use and transportation options.

    Of all the decisions made about the new high school, the decision to provide plentiful parking is the one that I’m most unhappy with.
       —Murph    Jul. 22 '05 - 09:08AM    #
  7. If this thing isn’t a big-box suburban school, I don’t know what is. This has been covered in detail elsewhere, of course. Funny how there only seems to be lots of opposition to the school now that it’s too late—where was everyone during last year’s vote on funding this thing?

    http://arborupdate.com/library/54/super-size-me-the-gluttonous-high-school-bond
       —Brandon    Jul. 22 '05 - 09:16AM    #
  8. Of course, the irony is that Mike B’s op. ed. (referenced by Brandon in post #7) makes perfect sense, except that we’re still arguing about parking and “tall” buildings in the downtown area. Were not so sure that we want new stuff downtown, remember?

    It makes perfect sense, given the demographics as well as a true desire for density, to build a smaller high school in the downtown area.

    Unfortunately, the civics lesson that we have all had over the past year with the greenway/parking lot thing has taught us that trying to put a high school downtown would be a drawn out and eventually futile exercise.

    My bet is that the same people who are jumping up and down about the massive parking lot for the new school were the same people who thought that a parking lot and tall buildings downtown would be the equivalent of “paving over the earth”.

    One things for sure: there isn’t a connection between these two positions.
       —todd l.    Jul. 22 '05 - 10:04AM    #
  9. If no parking was provided on-site, you would fill the buses going to that school.

    Bull. Shit.

    When I was there, 9—5 years ago, Huron had nowhere near enough parking on campus for the number of permits it gives out, let alone its actual driving population. You think people didn’t drive to school anyway? No. People circled the lots a few times, then parked across teh street in the park, or in the condoplex across the Parkway, or up in the commuter lot on Glazier. They didn’t just not drive.
       —[libcat]    Jul. 22 '05 - 10:09AM    #
  10. Of all the decisions made about the new high school, the decision to provide plentiful parking is the one that I’m most unhappy with.

    Even the students who don’t drive or don’t have a parking place arrive at school by car in large numbers. Not only is riding the school bus profoundly ‘un-cool’ among high-schoolers, it is pretty damn inconvenient. In order to get on to their next routes, the HS buses drop the passengers well before the start of school. We live only a bit more than a mile from the high school, but the pickup at our stop was around 45 minutes before the start of school. High-schoolers have enough trouble dragging themselves out of bed without adding another 40 minutes to the problem.

    Student parking is actually a better option than parent dropoff (which requires a round-trip rather a one-way drive). And if students car-pooled, it would be an efficient form of transport. One idea would be to have HOV requirements for student parking. But that raises saftey questions—parents may object to having their kids ride with other novice drivers.
       —mw    Jul. 22 '05 - 11:06AM    #
  11. They didn’t just not drive.

    So if people show up expecting free parking, and there’s free parking somewhere, they’ll use it. Yep. All true. If there isn’t any free parking at/around the school, though, people won’t park for free, by physical impossibility. The problem “they’ll use free parking somewhere else” is not solved by saying, “Oh, well, we need to provide free parking on-site.”

    When I lived in the student co-op off north campus, we had students parking in our lot and taking the blue bus (50 yard walk from our lot) down to north campus, for exactly that reason. They couldn’t find free parking on campus, so they tried to use ours. Tragically for them, our parking lot wasn’t free, it was a $150 impound at Brewers. I don’t think we ever had to tow the same car twice – they learned. High school students will learn too. If the condo assn. wants to provide free parking to the HS, that’s their decision. Otherwise, they can have the students towed, and the students will stop parking there. If the Parks Dept. wants to provide free parking to the HS, that’s their decision. Otherwise, they can ticket. If the U wants to provide free orange lot parking to the HS, that’s their decision. Otherwise, they can ticket. An “unlimited” supply of nearby free parking does not justify creating an unlimited supply of on-site free parking.

    If there is no free parking, people will just not drive. (Or they’ll find a place to pay for parking, if it’s worth enough to them.)
       —Murph.    Jul. 22 '05 - 12:22PM    #
  12. mw –
    Aw. Poor high school kids who can’t drag themselves out of bed. Yep, I remember being one of them. I spent two-thirds of my grade school career taking the bus (which picked me up more than an hour before school started), and the other third carpooling with my mom (a teacher) and siblings – she went to work 45 minutes to an hour before school started, so it wasn’t much better. Know what? I survived. “High school students are spoiled by easy car access, therefore we should continue to spoil them,” just doesn’t fly.

    And, if your concern is that preventing students from driving themselves will mean their parents will drive them, well, I don’t know how the vehicle access will be laid out, but set up a toll for accessing the school. “Wanna be dropped off? Is it worth a five dollar toll to you? Oh. Thought not. Take the bus.”

    Come on – are we actually interested in getting away from stupid and self-harmful models of land use and transportation, or are we just interested in saying we are?
       —Murph.    Jul. 22 '05 - 12:30PM    #
  13. There really is evidence that high school students forced to wake up earlier do not adjust, and perform poorly. Instituting a toll for dropping off students would just help higher-income students perform better, and in fact discourage carpools (dropping your kids off on the way to work is a carpool of sorts.)
       —ann arbor is overrated    Jul. 22 '05 - 12:46PM    #
  14. Why does everything turn into a discussion about parking?

    How about education? This is a school after all. Has anyone visited any newly built high schools recently? They are not like older high schools. The space is used differently, and they tend be more open on the inside. If that’s big-box then I want it.

    How about students? Forget how they got to school. What do you think about 2500 students at Pioneer, and 2000 at Huron? Is that okay? Is it a good thing that there aren’t enough spots in the band or in theater productions so that all kids can participate? Or that the hallways are so crowded kids can’t get through?
       —JennyD    Jul. 22 '05 - 12:49PM    #
  15. How about this, Jenny:

    A surface parking lot costs (according to UMich Transportation) $500/space/year to build, maintain, administer, rebuild, etc. So an 800-space parking lot costs the district $400,000/year.

    Now, would you rather have the district spending $400k/year on a parking subsidy, or spending $400k/year on half a dozen more teachers? Better to subsidize parking, or to buy instruments for the music program? Or supplies for the art program, or the theater program? Free parking is never free – you’re robbing the kids of a better education in order to provide them with parking. Does that seem like a good set of priorities? That’s why I’m talking about parking – it’s what I know about, and it’s what I best know to be wrong.

    So, how about this as a compromise solution: The school sells parking permits for $500/space, but provides some of them at reduced cost – if you qualify for the free or reduced school lunch program (based on family income) then you qualify for a reduced-cost parking permit. Figure out what percentage of students qualify for reduced- or free lunch and reserve that percentage of parking space for reduced- or free permits. That way, you don’t encourage parking by subsidizing it unnecessarily, but you also provide an equity mechanism.

    Yes, I think all those things are problems. I don’t think “build no new school” is a good idea, and I don’t, at this point, want to stop the construction of this new school. I’m just quibbling around the edges.
       —Murph.    Jul. 22 '05 - 01:18PM    #
  16. Murph, good ideas. Maybe there should be a lottery for parking spots. Or maybe they should be available on a sliding scale based on a family income. But I agree…I’d rather see the money spent in the classroom.

    I get a little annoyed when the education of my kids takes a backseat to saving trees, however.
       —JennyD    Jul. 22 '05 - 01:39PM    #
  17. Yes, as Todd was angling towards, somebody’s going to have good reasons to oppose any particular plan, and there are a lot of good reasons to dislike the decisions made towards the new high school.

    Stopping a new school, though, is a lot harder than stopping, say, a Three Site Plan, because there’s a much larger number of people (parents) who clearly feel the need for _a_ new high school, and will back even a flawed plan, because it’s the best thing going, and it’s needed. It’s hard to build a movement behind delaying the construction of a new school infinitely.
       —Murph.    Jul. 22 '05 - 03:54PM    #
  18. I get a little annoyed when broad environmental, economic, and cultural concerns take a back seat to convenience. I think the new school will be a fitting monument to Ann Arbour.

    The neighborhood parking grabs make a good deal more sense when viewed in terms of developments like this. I look forward to the next complaint about college kids’ cars taking up room in the streets of Ann Arbor.
       —Dale    Jul. 22 '05 - 05:20PM    #
  19. Question for Alan P.:

    Where would you have put the new school?
       —todd l.    Jul. 23 '05 - 11:29AM    #
  20. Whatever answer he gives to that question Todd, the true answer is anywhere but near his house.

    At the end of the day that’s really what this controversy is about.
       —Leon    Jul. 23 '05 - 12:04PM    #
  21. Maybe UM should have sold Frieze back to the school district to use as the new high school?
       —Murph    Jul. 23 '05 - 01:48PM    #
  22. The Scarlett-Mitchell site has a huge drive and lawn area and could handle a small high school building, I’d think. Even the Pioneer property is large enough to add a separate building. That way the athletic and other facilities could have been shared. Doug Cowherd probably knows of at least 100 sites that could have been used. ;-) (Sorry, Doug, couldn’t resist.)
       —Steve Bean    Jul. 23 '05 - 01:56PM    #
  23. “Whatever answer he gives to that question Todd, the true answer is anywhere but near his house.”

    Really? I don’t live anywhere near the new location but based on the times I’ve been in the area, it doesn’t seem like a very smart location. But I also realize that the schools had to work with what they had. Locating a suburban sized school was going to be a challenge anywhere in town.
       —John Q.    Jul. 24 '05 - 12:05AM    #
  24. And, if your concern is that preventing students from driving themselves will mean their parents will drive them, well, I don’t know how the vehicle access will be laid out, but set up a toll for accessing the school. “Wanna be dropped off? Is it worth a five dollar toll to you? Oh. Thought not. Take the bus.”

    Come on – are we actually interested in getting away from stupid and self-harmful models of land use and transportation, or are we just interested in saying we are?

    So are we going to tell area businesses that they are not only forbidden to have parking lots, but are also required to charge anyone a hefty fee who even wants to drop somebody off by car—so their employees and customers will be forced to take the bus? Do you think this would be effective? Would such businesses thrive?

    If the new high-school were built without student parking facilities, should we also then elminate student parking opportunities at Pioneer and Huron and implement the drop-off fees out of fairness?

    Do you think all of this would be effective in drawing students (and their state-funding dollars) into the Ann Arbor school district?
       —mw    Jul. 24 '05 - 12:44PM    #
  25. Do you think parents choose Ann Arbor schools based not on the quality of education, but the ease of automobile access?
       —Dale    Jul. 24 '05 - 12:54PM    #
  26. mw,

    So are we going to tell area businesses that they are not only forbidden to have parking lots

    Well, currently we tell most of them that they’re required to have parking lots, (and we might even tell them they’re not allowed to charge for parking; I’d need to reread the local codes) meaning they either raise prices (harming their customers) or lower wages (harming their employees in order to cover the costs of providing the required parking. I’d like to tell them they’re not required to have parking lots, of course, but I’m not going to tell them that they’re forbidden. But schools aren’t businesses, and nor should they be expected to act like them.

    If the new high-school were built without student parking facilities, should we also then elminate student parking opportunities at Pioneer and Huron and implement the drop-off fees out of fairness?

    Yes, of course.

    Do you think all of this would be effective in drawing students (and their state-funding dollars) into the Ann Arbor school district?

    No, but, like Dale, I don’t think it’ll prevent them from moving here, either, and it will provide an incentive for them to choose houses in rational locations when they do move here. Why should I, a renter (paying the non-homestead school millage, four times the millage of a homeowner!), subsidize parking so that the people coming into the disctrict can destroy a little part of it in the process? A well-educated populace is a public good; free parking is not.
       —Murph.    Jul. 24 '05 - 01:44PM    #
  27. Do you think parents choose Ann Arbor schools based not on the quality of education, but the ease of automobile access?

    At the moment, no—but then it I don’t think it occurs to anybody that a school would not only eliminate student parking but also try to fine parents who dropped their kids off. I am very sure such a policy would, indeed, result in a loss of students. That’s not to say that people would immediately put their houses up for sale and move. But I do know that schools are a major factor in the decision-making of people moving to the area, and I believe such a draconian measure would indeed push people to look for homes in one of the surrounding districts.

    But it’s kind of a pointless thought experiment because such a policy would never be enacted. If a school board tried to implement it, they’d be recalled.

    But schools aren’t businesses, and nor should they be expected to act like them.

    Well schools don’t really have much choice but to be responsive to their customers (e.g. families with children). Given the per-pupil funding model of Prop A and the existence of open enrollment districts and charter schools and the many private schools in the area and the rise of home-schooling, AAPS has to be keenly interested in attracting and retaining students (and the nearly $10K a year that comes with each and every one of them).
       —mw    Jul. 24 '05 - 03:30PM    #
  28. If we recognize the cost of surface parking (upkeep, patroling) and we acknowledge the serious problems that encouraging/facilitating high auto usage creates (higher cost of roads and maintenance, wider roads, dependence on oil, pollution, less vibrant urban landscape) and mechanics and political will for local reform exist, why should we avoid it?

    MW, let me ask a larger question—do you not think that auto supremacy and oil dependancy are increasingly bad for American and Ann Arbor life? Do you not think that we should take steps to diminish both of them? What is the nature of your opposition? I don’t get where you’re coming from; I don’t think AAPS have much to worry about in terms of people not wanting their kids to go to AA schools—they’re pretty good by almost all accounts—and if the opportunity arises to make better environmental, economic, and social choices in the planning and development of a new school, why wouldn’t we take them, particularly if the school is claiming to value environmental consciousness?
       —Dale    Jul. 24 '05 - 07:20PM    #
  29. MW, let me ask a larger question – do you not think that auto supremacy and oil dependancy are increasingly bad for American and Ann Arbor life? Do you not think that we should take steps to diminish both of them?

    Oil dependence and energy inefficiency—yes. Auto use? No. An efficient car with multiple passengers is an extremely energy-efficient form of transport (as good or better than public transport). And driving a car a couple of miles to school every day is a much more defensible use of energy than burning up jet fel on a many thousand mile spring-break junket.

    What is the nature of your opposition? I don’t get where you’re coming from; I don’t think AAPS have much to worry about in terms of people not wanting their kids to go to AA schools – they’re pretty good by almost all accounts.

    Then you haven’t really been paying attention. Loss of Ann Arbor students to private schools in particular is a very serious concern of the district and has been for some time. Likewise, surrounding districts (Saline, Dexter, Chelsea) have all built spanking new high schools in recent years and have test scores close to those of Ann Arbor. Having families of prospective students chose those districts over Ann Arbor is also a concern.

    And if the opportunity arises to make better environmental, economic, and social choices in the planning and development of a new school, why wouldn’t we take them, particularly if the school is claiming to value environmental consciousness?

    How about this – instead of forcing students and their families to be ‘virtuous’, perhaps one of the focuses of environment education program there ought to be getting students to pay attention to their personal energy footprints and to design a program to convince students and families district-wide to follow suit. If that works, then maybe in time the school parking lots will be half empty.
       —mw    Jul. 24 '05 - 07:51PM    #
  30. Why wouldn’t the district link their education curriculum to their practices by incentivizing responsible transportation?
       —Dale    Jul. 24 '05 - 09:07PM    #
  31. Why wouldn’t the district link their education curriculum to their practices by incentivizing responsible transportation?

    Banning student driving and implementing punitive fines for parents who drop their kids off by car doesn’t sound like ‘incentivizing’ to me—it sounds like heavy-handed coercion.
       —mw    Jul. 25 '05 - 07:15AM    #
  32. Pardon my bluntness, but many of us could use a little heavy-handed coercion these days. Where is it written that, above all else, what we have come to see as normal convenience is sacred?
       —Matt Hollerbach    Jul. 25 '05 - 07:56AM    #
  33. Pardon my bluntness, but many of us could use a little heavy-handed coercion these days.

    And who decides what sort of coercion to apply? Representatives elected democratically by a majority vote?

    Or self-selected, enlightened planners who know what’s good for all of us whether we like it or not?
       —mw    Jul. 25 '05 - 09:13AM    #
  34. Why would we ever listen to planners about planning issues when homespun know-how and received wisdom have gotten us this far?

    MW—I repeat my question in response to your suggestion emphasizing environmental education: “Why wouldn’t the district link their education curriculum to their practices by incentivizing responsible transportation?” And that means a host of incentives and disincentives, only a few of which we have discussed here.
       —Dale    Jul. 25 '05 - 09:44AM    #
  35. Why would we ever listen to planners about planning issues when homespun know-how and received wisdom have gotten us this far?

    That’s not the point. The point is one of approaches. Do planners and their supporters do the hard political work of convincing a majority in the community to support anti-auto measures such as a ban on student parking and student dropoffs? Or do they try to make an end round around public opinion and call for the school administration and BOE to foist such a policy on the community when they know damn well a majority wouldn’t support it?

    If you can convince a majority of Ann Arborites to support this plan (and others like it) and can get BOE trustees and city council members elected running on these issues—hey, go for it. It may take 5 or 10 years to make progress. Or you might work at it for 5 or 10 years and make no progress. It’s messy, but that’s local democratic politics for you (the 3rd high school was already being debated by the school board before either of my kids started kindergarten—it is now scheduled to open the year my youngest graduates).

    Why wouldn’t the district link their education curriculum to their practices by incentivizing responsible transportation?

    Two answers—1. The district should be careful about blurring the line between education and activism (especially given that students are, legally, a captive audiece who can’t even vote in school elections). 2. There are non-coercive ways to create such links (such as, say, reserved parking spaces for students who car-pool).
       —mw    Jul. 25 '05 - 11:53AM    #
  36. Re: education and activism, EVERY educational decision is grounded in an ideology that was once at the fringe but has become more or less mainstream. Hell, the very idea of public education was once beyond the pale of the social contract. That the situation exists that a consolidated high school with an elected school board should serve far-flung students and, additionally, should provide parking for students who are no longer able to walk to school and who have access to the wealth necessary to afford a car is the culmination of DOZENS of such decisions based upon once-new ideas in access to education, though they now seem old hat.

    That we teach sex ed in high and middle schools is certainly the result of activism reforming educational expectations and requirements (well-placed, I think). However, that activism that influences education should be based on sound reasoning informed by hard and soft science. Reducing fossil-fueled auto travel is a no-brainer on that score, and SHOULD be pushed pretty hard (particularly when the claim of “environmental education” is made).

    The school is already making these types of decisions in that they are COERCING students to avoid transportation options like walking and biking simply by their choice of site. Last time I checked, neither existing high school had a chopper pad or an airfield, so they’re pretty clearly precluding those transportation options.

    The point of consulting planners is to avoid business as usual—to avoid doing what has always been done to get what you always got. Seas of free parking may be seen as the default, but they should not be. Planners, whose job it is to think about these things, can inform the population of other, better options AND be involved in the process of effecting change. Now, what is so radical about that?
       —Dale    Jul. 25 '05 - 12:22PM    #
  37. Coercion

    I want an Oompa-loompa. I think the school district should provide an Oompa-loompa for every student. To do otherwise would be coercive! Why would you want to do such a horrible thing as not handing out Oompa-loompas, free, to everybody who wants one? Free student Oompa-loompas are, you understand, a core part of education, and it is morally wrong for you to try to charge my student for an Oompa-loompa. So what if the Oompa-loompa eats ridiculous amounts of food from the cafeteria?! I don’t care if you think that feeding the Oompa-loompa for free drives up the cost of lunch for all of the other students, how dare you try to take away my students inalienable right to an Oompa-loompa at school?

    Does it make any more sense when you replace “Oompa-loompa” with “car”? No.

    “Not providing free unlimited car facilities” is hardly “coercion”. It’s simply “not providing free unlimited car facilities.” Free student parking diverts money from the core, educational mission of the schools. Unlimited parent drop-off and pick-up inhibits the movement of school buses, teachers, and the like. Car travel to school, whether by students driving themselves or parents dropping them off, includes a negative externality – that student is imposing a cost on everybody else. Why should we consider it a “right” to drive to school, when it has a negative impact on other students?
       —Murph.    Jul. 25 '05 - 12:26PM    #
  38. Plus, there’s always the fact that you don’t want to encourage teenagers to be driving in the first place. My little sister’s graduating class from Chelsea lost something like 5% of its members to car crash fatalities during their Junior and Senior years. If students couldn’t drive to school – and then cruise after school – it would reduce the usefulness of having a car to them; some of them wouldn’t have cars, and it would reduce the car use by those who did. Fewer vehicle miles -> fewer crashes -> fewer fatalities -> more kids surviving to graduate.
       —Murph.    Jul. 25 '05 - 12:29PM    #
  39. Does it make any more sense when you replace ‘Oompa-loompa’ with ‘car’? No.

    I’m sorry—that’s really kind of a dumb analogy. Ann Arbor students and families don’t want ‘oompa-loompas’. Giving out ‘oompa-loompas’ isn’t a normal thing school do, and families and don’t rely on them. They do want to be able to have older students drive to school (and younger students be driven to school). This is common practice in the country and families do rely on it.

    Not providing free unlimited car facilities” is hardly ‘coercion’. It’s simply “not providing free unlimited car facilities.

    Car facilities (at Huron at least) are neither free nor unlimited. Instead, there are a limited number of permits available by lottery to juniors and seniors and the permits cost something on the order of $50/year, I believe.

    And yes, banning student driving outright and imposing punitive fines to prevent parents dropping off their kids is coercive.
       —mw    Jul. 25 '05 - 12:56PM    #
  40. Education and activism, EVERY educational decision is grounded in an ideology that was once at the fringe but has become more or less mainstream. Hell, the very idea of public education was once beyond the pale of the social contract.

    That’s fine – take your fringe idea of banning autos from schools and make it mainstream (at least locally) by convincing a majority of Ann Arbor voters to support it.

    That the situation exists that a consolidated high school with an elected school board should serve far-flung students and, additionally, should provide parking for students who are no longer able to walk to school and who have access to the wealth necessary to afford a car is the culmination of DOZENS of such decisions

    More than dozens—the new high school was kicked around for over a decade by at least 3 different superintendents and multiple different groups of school board members. There was a community advisory board and community meetings. Many, many different options were considered (multiple new small high schools, magnet schools, grade reconfiguration, enlarging Pioneer and Huron with or without ‘schools-within-schools’, converting a middle school, building a small school on the large Pioneer campus, etc, etc). The third high-school with magnet programs was the compromise that emerged from all this activity.
       —mw    Jul. 25 '05 - 01:05PM    #
  41. Perhaps my Oompa-Loompa-less education has left me dull, but what are you arguing, mw? Now you don’t have opposition to reducing student parking and driving? Or are you arguing that we should not be bringing these objections up since we didn’t live in Ann Arbor a decade ago to be part of the process? And, if you’ll go back and read the comments, the only person using the word “ban” (or even the idea) is YOU.
       —Dale    Jul. 25 '05 - 01:33PM    #
  42. But what are you arguing, mw? Now you don’t have opposition to reducing student parking and driving?

    I’m arguing that you need to convince a majority of Ann Arbor voters that eliminating student parking (or imposing hefty student parking and drop-off fees) is a good idea. I’m opposed to trying for an end-run around public opinion by asking the district to simply impose this vision based on the connection to its environmental education curriculum.

    And, if you’ll go back and read the comments, the only person using the word “ban” (or even the idea) is YOU.

    Go back to comment #26. I said:

    “If the new high-school were built without student parking facilities, should we also then elminate student parking opportunities at Pioneer and Huron and implement the drop-off fees out of fairness?”

    And you said:

    “Yes, of course.”

    It is true that the word “ban” does not appear, but the idea certainly does.
       —mw    Jul. 25 '05 - 02:02PM    #
  43. I don’t understand the fascination with parking for students at a high school. I went to Huron and never drove and few of my friends drove. We either got rides from family (my dad used to drop me off in the morning since it was on his way to work) or one of the few people who had a parking sticker (which were hard to come by and cost money) or we took the bus. It wasn’t a big deal. The only people who really had to plan ahead were those kids who stayed after for sports or music and they all seemed to figure it out by carpooling or taking the city bus or having someone come pick them up. Pioneer had a huge lot so many more kids drove and Community had a smaller lot so fewer kids drove. It was simply never an issue. There was no need for parking parity among the schools. Admittedly a car was handy when we wanted to skip classes, sneak away, and rod around town with unsuitable boys, but although that was educational, I’m not sure that is quite what people have in mind.

    My husband went to school in Boulder, Colorado at a high school downtown with virtually no student parking. He rode the bus every day, as did all his classmates. He is not permanently scarred. As a matter of fact, he was shocked when he moved out here and saw how big the student parking lots were since he had never really considered driving to school.

    Of course, in my day we read books and talked to our friends and crammed for tests on those 45-minute bus rides so it just didn’t seem all that onerous. Looks to me like kids, parents, and the education system are pretty different these days if student parking at school is this much of an issue. I assume free bus service will be provided with this new school?
       —Juliew    Jul. 25 '05 - 02:03PM    #
  44. mw, read again. First, that was Murph (not Dale). Second, it was the response to your implication that it should be done in the spirit of fair play.
       —Dale    Jul. 25 '05 - 02:18PM    #
  45. mw, read again. First, that was Murph (not Dale). Second, it was the response to your implication that it should be done in the spirit of fair play.

    Apologies for the misatribution, but either way, I wasn’t the one who introduced the idea of building the new high school without student parking facilities (which would, of course, be a defacto ban). You, yourself, first brought up that possibility in comment #6.
       —mw    Jul. 25 '05 - 02:38PM    #
  46. mw, reread yet again. #6 was Murph, not Dale (the author of this comment).

    And Murph’s position (I think) is more accurately characterized as not diverting funds to encourage and facilitate an environmentally harmful and redundant means of transportation. Teen driving is not necessary to get to school, any more than teen flying is necessary.
       —Dale    Jul. 25 '05 - 02:57PM    #
  47. What is the point of a high school anyway? And what do the consumers of high school (students) need/want from it? Do the need/want to be pawns in some social experiment to change transportation patterns in the US? If that’s what the school board has in mind for my kid, I want out. I was thinking math, chemistry, history, world literature…that sort of thing as the content of high school.

    I think this comment thread keeps veering away from issues of education, and into some rant about fossil fuels and cars.

    If you want to limit parking, fine. But be prepared to deal with kids parking on neighborhood street. If you want to stop it, make parking tickets cost $100, and also make the few parking spots at school available for a huge fee.

    None of this has to do with the need for a new school, and the decision to place it in the area of the community that is growing the fastest. AAPS just opened a new elementary school on the far west side of town. It’s not surprising that a new high school would go in that area.

    Personally, I think we should get rid of high school sports and have them run through some community organization. Why we have linked sports to education is beyond me….
       —JennyD    Jul. 25 '05 - 03:26PM    #
  48. Jenny: We have sports linked with education because of the 19th Century British model. Sport, as we all know, keeps a boy from self abuse.

    mw: The argument that not having parking is a de facto ban is retarded. By not having pony stables, there’s a de facto ban on ponies. The contention that because cars are the norm, they must be accomodated is begging the question that cars must be the norm.

    Dale, Murph: Because of where this high school is situated, you can’t realisticly expect people not to drive. When I had to take the bus to Huron (or Community), the bus got to the school at 7am, 45 minutes before class. That meant getting to the bus stop by 6:30, which meant (including the walk in winter) getting up at at least 6:00am, sometimes 5:30am. Biologically, that’s just not when kids should be up.
    However, that does stick you into the position of dividing kids by class. Many kids, myself included, had no car in high school because their family simply could not afford one. That makes you less able to take part in extracurricular activities and does invite a social stigma. I realize that this isn’t a concern for most Ann Arbor parents, but it perhaps should be for the district.

    What’s the solution? Well… I don’t rightly know. A more efficient bus system, subsidized by parking fees? Later start times, so that the kids have better access by AATA? When I went to high school at both Huron and Commie, parking passes were free for upperclassmen (only seniors at Commie) and were provided for others who could demonstrate a need. Still, at Commie, that meant about 150 permits provided for 100 spaces. At Huron, that simply meant parking on the brownfield, until you were able to use the senior parking lot.
       —js    Jul. 25 '05 - 03:39PM    #
  49. I don’t understand your position, mw, that a lack of cars is an unconscionable restriction of rights or freedoms.

    My position has to do with the process not the outcome. Again, do the work of convincing a majority here (or even a sizeable noisy minority – in keeping with Ann Arbor tradition) that student driving/parking (and parent dropoffs) are bad thing that should be curtailed and I have no objections. You don’t seem to be willing to contemplate such an effort, though.

    Hence my suggestion of a $500 (approximate cost of providing parking)

    That’s a badly inflated number for a parking place in an unpaved lot on district-owned land for which there is neither a mortgage or tax bill. How do I know? I have a sailboat on a trailer parked in an RV space (large enough for at least two cars) in a gated self-storage facility near town. This space is provided by a for-profit business that pays property taxes (and had to buy the land). Annual cost? $300. Maybe $50 is too low to cover the costs of gravel and snow-plowing, but it can’t be more than $100.

    The negative costs of congestion are not borne by the individual causing them – by joining a congested school area to drop off my kid, I cause everybody else to lose time, burn fuel, and create pollution by contributing to systemic congestion.

    But rush-hour congestion is hardly limited to school traffic (in fact, a big problem at Huron in the morning is that a lot of the traffic in the area consists of people commuting to work via Huron Parkway or Fuller. I am sure the same is true on Main Street and Stadium near Pioneer. The problem isn’t all those damn kids and parents, it’s all those damn people commuting to jobs (or, actually, a combination of both).

    If we’re going to think about congestion fees in Ann Arbor, it ought to be done fairly and uniformly – not applied selectively to a ‘captive audience’ at a school.

    So do you want to propose London-style congestion fees for the city of Ann Arbor? I suppose it’s worth considering. Personally, I wouldn’t mind – I’d be happy to pay a few bucks a day for clear sailing (I don’t drive anywhere most days anyway). But at this point, I think it would hurt the commnity economically – as I think parking restrictions would also hurt the schools by driving away some students and families at the margins.
       —mw    Jul. 25 '05 - 04:34PM    #
  50. Jenny –
    Please don’t take this as my arguing against a new school. I agree with you; (2 of) the existing high schools are too large, and the growing population needs to be distributed across more facilities.

    Nor am I really even arguing against this new high school. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a done deal, and there’s no use in my arguing against it at this point.

    My basic position is that stupid land use by schools is a big part of what got me into planning, and we shouldn’t give schools a free pass to do bad development just because they’re schools. Look at the AADL or the Federal Building or City Hall – are those good buildings just because they fill vital public purposes? No. They’re rotten buildings, lousy site plans, and the architects in question really should be . . . whatever the architect version of disbarred is for inflicting such terrible designs on the public.

    Given that we’re too far along to fight over the decision to build a new school, or where to build it, and we’re not far enough along yet to fight over re-districting decisions, such that all we can really do about the new school is engage in masturbatory, semi-intellectual bickering, well, that’s really all I’m doing. Complaining that the Ann Arbor School District continues to make the ludricrous land use / transportation decisions common to Michigan school districts, and claiming that we ought to hold our schools to higher standards than “existing”.
       —Murph.    Jul. 25 '05 - 04:42PM    #
  51. (note that I deleted the string of my own comments that mw is responding to in #49, because I was being bratty, and those comments were counterproductive.)
       —Murph.    Jul. 25 '05 - 04:44PM    #
  52. mw – I don’t understand the accusation you’ve made (multiple times now) that I/others are somehow trying to subvert democracy by suggesting congestion charges around schools or a end to subsidized parking. If I were for some reason opposed to debating with my fellow citizens in civil society, why would I be talking to you?

    It seems ironic for you to come on a website explicitly devoted to broadening civic discourse and accuse the folks participating on it of trying to circumvent the democratic process.

    Honestly, if I had the power to work outside the democratic process, would I really waste so much time on a stupid blog?
       —Murph.    Jul. 25 '05 - 04:50PM    #
  53. Murph, your deleted comments were good, I thought. And you shouldn’t have the luxury of retracting something you say unless it’s patently offensive and malicious (in which case, anyone making such a comment would be deleted).

    whatever the architect version of disbarred is for inflicting such terrible designs on the public

    The phrase you’re looking for is “revered as a genius.”
       —Dale    Jul. 25 '05 - 04:55PM    #
  54. If I had the power to work outside the democratic process, I’d have you all killed.
    Except for Todd, whose beer I would drink for free.
    (This is my platform for running for City Council. Vote for me, so that I may have most of you killed and the others enslaved. I could do that, right?)
       —js    Jul. 25 '05 - 04:56PM    #
  55. MW and JennyD—are you honestly saying that people will choose to live in a different town solely on the basis that their 16 or 17-year old can’t drive their car to school???? Honestly? I can see making this sort of decision because their child can’t actually get to school (no busses for example), but because they can’t drive their car to school? This just floors me. You can honestly say that that you think the idea that having students take the bus is akin to being “a pawn in some social experiment.” I hate to break it to you but actually, parking for students at a high school was a social experiment from twenty years ago that has obviously gone horribly, horribly wrong. And yes, you and your children are part of it and have bought into it wholeheartedly. It is going to be ugly when the real world comes crashing down on their entitled little heads.
       —Juliew    Jul. 25 '05 - 05:00PM    #
  56. Julie, my entitled little kids have no car. I am one of the few parents in my affluent little neighborhood who forces my kids to take the bus to and from school. The rest of the pampered darlings get chauffeured in the family SUV.

    I’d love to see fewer cars driven by kids. But I am in the minority. The other parents are just dying to give Junior a set of wheels. If you want to change that, you’d have to make it hurt the parents financially so they wouldn’t do it.

    What I object to are people yammering that saving a bunch of trees is more important than allowing my kids to be educated in a school with fewer than 2000 kids. This district has tried for years to get the high school passed, and finally succeeded. I’m not crazy about the plan, but at least it’s a plan.

    The district held numerous public meetings open to all to help plan this. I never attended. But I hope that those who now object went to all the meetings.

    As an aside, mw said that Ann Arbor wants to attract out of district students. Actually, Ann Arbor doesn’t accept students from outside the school district. Why? Because AA gets more money per pupil from the state than most other districts around here. Students from other districts don’t bring the AA-sized money, they bring the amount they get given their home district. That’s why other districts are trying to lure AA students away.
       —JennyD    Jul. 25 '05 - 05:27PM    #
  57. It seems ironic for you to come on a website explicitly devoted to broadening civic discourse and accuse the folks participating on it of trying to circumvent the democratic process.

    Well, holding discussions here is a bit like preaching to the choir (or members of the choir preaching to eachother). It’s clear that people posting here would like to influence policy—it isn’t clear that their preferred method is building community consensus.

    Why a suspicion about democratic process? How about this:

    “A school is one of those places that, traditionally, has a very good other transportation option (school buses, anyone?), and that doesn’t allow people the option of choosing another destination. Captive audience.” (my emphasis)

    ‘Doesn’t allow people the option or choosing’? ‘Captive audience’? Sorry, that doesn’t sound to me like giving the people what they want. That sounds to me like thinking of a school as a special case where solutions can be imposed on people who (the assumption is) have little choice but to eat their spinach.
       —mw    Jul. 25 '05 - 05:31PM    #
  58. Murph, I know you’re not arguing against doing something about crowded high schools.

    Usually I would demand the optimum solution that would best serve all aspects of life in the city. But when it’s your kids in a poor learning environment, you start to look for pragmatic and do-able solutions. This is, I’m afraid, do-able.
       —JennyD    Jul. 25 '05 - 05:34PM    #
  59. As an aside, mw said that Ann Arbor wants to attract out of district students. Actually, Ann Arbor doesn’t accept students from outside the school district.

    No-that’s not what I said—or at least that’s not what I meant. Ann Arbor doesn’t want to lose students to surrounding districts (or to private schools or charters or to home-schooling), which can occur in a variety of ways. One is that students in the Ann Arbor district may elect to attend school in surrounding districts (many of which are open-enrollment districts). Or families may move out of the Ann Arbor district. Or new families coming to the area may choose an outlying district instead of Ann Arbor. There are all kinds of ways to lose students at the margin. Similarly, AAPS can gain students in all of the above ways—except, as you note, accepting out of district students because of the per-pupil funding differences.
       —mw    Jul. 25 '05 - 05:36PM    #
  60. Are you honestly saying that people will choose to live in a different town solely on the basis that their 16 or 17-year old can’t drive their car to school???? Honestly? I can see making this sort of decision because their child can’t actually get to school (no busses for example), but because they can’t drive their car to school? This just floors me.

    Most people? No. But some people? Absolutely. Many kids have after-school jobs or activities that would be difficult to manage without a car. And at Huron, I believe some of the varsity sports practices are, out of necessity, held off campus and the students are responsible for getting themselves to the practice site.

    But never mind that—does anybody have any idea what kind of protest there would be at the BOE if the district decided to raise the parking permit fee from $50 to $500 and impose a daily congestion fee for school drop-off and pickup? Are you kidding?!? At one point, the district considered switching the start of instrumental music instruction from 5th to 6th grade and there was an overflow crowd of impassioned music supporters at the next board meeting.
       —mw    Jul. 25 '05 - 05:53PM    #
  61. This entire argument demonstrates some ignorance to high school realities.

    Reality 1. if you are involved in extra curricular activities you can’t ride the bus. For buses to run on a schedule to pick up and return home every kid to every neighborhood when every activity starts or ends..well, its just impractical as hell and would probably burn more gas in the end, not to even mention the cost. And what about the kid who comes to school early or stays late to do SCHOOL WORK?
    Reality 2. Kids want their cars at the end of the day and will figure out where and how to park. Even if that means walking three miles to get to school from ANOTHER parking lot.
    Reality 3. Ever been caught in a HS football game traffic jam? Then you haven’t been a parent of a football player. HS parking lots are used for more than student parking..like school events, adult ed parking, community events. Parking lots don’t only accomodate the school’s population. They also allow for visitors from outlying schools.
    Sad Reality 4. Stressed out overworked parents can and do get so frustrated by lack of parking they skip school events.
    Reality 5. If you take the bus in many areas, you can potentially be looking at a 1.5 hour bus ride either every morning or every night. IT would be swell if kids could sleep or study on the bus. Not hardly. That’s 1.5 hours of bedlam a day. Some kids don’t mind it, some kids are driven half nuts by it. Let the poor bastards DRIVE.

    Want a cause to adopt? Demand OSHA start taking decibel readings on contemporary school buses.

    But my real argument is with the original post. Cripes. Aren’t there any more deplorable things going on than the building of a “big box” high school to ease overcrowding?
    Seeing these “issues” at every turn of the road just dilutes the outrage we ought to have over truly idiotic pointless development and rape of the landscape.
    Want to see some examples? uh oh. gotta drive, but only as far as the first of a thousand new Foxrun Estates where Junior is driving FROM.

    And THERE’S your reason Junior has to drive instead of WALK to school in the first place.
       —Trixie    Jul. 26 '05 - 12:26AM    #
  62. Trixie, I speak from experience that points 1, 2, 3, and 5 are not legitimate. No development should be exempt from environmental considerations.
       —Dale    Jul. 26 '05 - 08:03AM    #
  63. “Well, holding discussions here is a bit like preaching to the choir (or members of the choir preaching to eachother). It’s clear that people posting here would like to influence policy-it isn’t clear that their preferred method is building community consensus.”

    MW, actually this is not true at all. You would be amazed (I know I was) at the cross section of decision-makers who read this site fairly regularly. Here’s a brief list of organizations that either read this site regularly, or have threads send to them fairly often: Council; Planning Commission; UMich prof’s from UPlanning, Arch, Envir. Eng., School of Info; City Planners from other cities; Sierra Club rep’s; Huron Valley Greens; AANews reporters…..

    I could go on, but I think you get the picture. It’s not just a bunch of people who agree with each other. The folks at ArborUpdate should be proud.

    To chime in on this debate, I think it’s fair to say that we missed the boat on this one.

    We should have put this school downtown. We already have Commie High as a starting point for the model. Take the money that would have been used for athletic facilities and pay for the expensive downtown lots. Use a few buildings. Make it like a college campus. Fewer kids, more teachers. Recalling life as a 16 year old, I would have killed to have been located in a downtown area. Instead, we are taking the road most travelled, which is always the easiest.

    Kids could use the undercapacity AATA buses to get home. They could wait in a coffee shop for their parents to come by after school. The kids would actually become members of the community….which is much nicer than shoving them over into a new plot of land that will become peppered with strip malls and pricey homes that serve both the students and the parents. Thanks but no thanks.

    I think, though, that given the political realities in Ann Arbor, Jenny D is completely correct. Whatever gets the damn thing built without interference from locals is the way to go. Nothing innovative. Nothing that hasn’t been done a thousand times before. The safe and easy route, with little effort towards site planning and design. Of course, this is a pretty sad state of affairs, but she’s right.

    Alan P., who started this whole thread, still hasn’t answered my question: Where would you put this new high school? “Not here” isn’t really doing it for me.
       —todd l.    Jul. 26 '05 - 09:38AM    #
  64. MW, actually this is not true at all. You would be amazed (I know I was) at the cross section of decision-makers who read this site fairly regularly. Here’s a brief list of organizations that either read this site regularly, or have threads send to them fairly often: Council; Planning Commission; UMich prof’s from UPlanning, Arch, Envir. Eng., School of Info; City Planners from other cities; Sierra Club rep’s; Huron Valley Greens; AANews reporters..

    Yes, talking to ‘a cross section of decision makers’ rather than the public at large is exactly what I meant by trying to influence policy without building majorities and broader community consensus. I’m not saying talking to ‘decision makers’ is not a useful thing, but suggesting that decision makers should impose policies on unwilling ‘captive audiences’ who lack other options is not a democratic approach in my mind.

    We should have put this school downtown. We already have Commie High as a starting point for the model. Take the money that would have been used for athletic facilities and pay for the expensive downtown lots. Use a few buildings. Make it like a college campus. Fewer kids, more teachers. Recalling life as a 16 year old, I would have killed to have been located in a downtown area. Instead, we are taking the road most travelled, which is always the easiest.

    It is not as if nobody considered that option, but over the course of many years of debate and many school board elections, it did not garner majority support. Why? Well, for one thing, the athletics don’t work the way you think they do – Community High doesn’t get to spend extra money on teachers because it has no athletics – rather, CHS students remain eligible for sports (and band and orchestra) at their original ‘home’ schools and many do take advantage of these options. One of the problems with 2,000-3,000 student high schools is that only the top 2% or so of basketball players can even be ON the varsity team (and half of those sit on the bench most of the time). Opening another downtown high-school on the CHS model would have done nothing whatsoever to change this.

    And a larger downtown high-school like CHS would not really have helped the transportation problem, it would have made it worse. Why? Because, like CHS, such a school would have drawn from the whole district, not just one part of it, which would have made the logistics of providing bus service worse (as I understand it, there is no bus servcie to CHS other than the shuttles to Huron and Pioneer).

    Given the geographic spread of the school district, there is no place one could have put a 3rd high school that would have solved this problem, because the problem is where people have chosen to live, not where the district has chosen to put the school.
       —mw    Jul. 26 '05 - 10:36AM    #
  65. re: geographic spread-

    A high school at the AADL site would have bus service to everywhere available right across the street at the AATA hub. This service runs more frequently, later, and to more places than the school buses do.

    A school at the Frieze site would be a bit less convenient to the hub but about the same as CHS is now. Which, speaking from experience, was convenient enough to use every day.

    Too late now, but the downtown school transportation story (as opposed to the car story) would be pretty good.

    The CHS school bus service, by the way, consisted simply of periodic shuttles to Pioneer and Huron. If you wanted to take the school bus to CHS in the morning, you got on the bus with the Pioneer kids and then, 20-30 minutes after arriving at Pioneer, took the shuttle over to CHS. Although this took a long time door to door, as a previous poster noted, it would scale well. With a bigger downtown school, you would run three morning shuttles instead of one (there are plenty of buses idling at Pioneer anyway at that time of morning), and maybe tighten up the layover time.
       —IanJ    Jul. 26 '05 - 03:20PM    #
  66. To turn this further from complaining about what might have been, to what extent do AAPS and AATA coordinate their shares of the bus burden?

    I’d be disappointed but not surprised if there were a good deal of redundancy within the city. Has the district examined (or done) cutting of some of its own costs of busing (and admin) from neighborhoods to high schools and simply paid AATA for handling it and expanding their coverage?

    Little kids riding buses with adults might not sit well with some parents, but perhaps a buddy system (partnering a middle or high schooler with an elementary schooler) could help take care of some of these problems.
       —Dale    Jul. 26 '05 - 03:59PM    #
  67. lanJ: I said about the same thing, but Arborupdate ate my post.
    Because they’re censoring my views! Free Palestine now!
    No, kidding.
    Follow-up to MW: The savings on athletics at Commie High come because of their low infrastructure cost for the gym and weight room that they have. There are problems with the logistics of building a Commie High style school to accomodate more students (like that Commie is set up to only handle about 500 students, meaning there’d have to be four of them to handle the same 2000), but they’re not the objections you’re voicing.
       —js    Jul. 26 '05 - 06:47PM    #
  68. The savings on athletics at Commie High come because of their low infrastructure cost for the gym and weight room that they have.

    But those aren’t the kind of savings that really matter. Post prop A, it’s not the case that money saved on infrastructure can be spent on, say, more teachers. The district can pass millages for capital improvements (e.g. for the new high-school and for improvements at existing buildings), but it cannot legally spend any of that money in its operating budget nor can it increase its operating millage.
       —mw    Jul. 26 '05 - 07:44PM    #
  69. Exactly right. We can pass bond millages and build a zillion high schools. But we cannot fill them with teachers because we are limited in our operating expenses by Prop A.

    BTW, the Commie high kids do sports and other stuff at the big high schools. So where’s the big savings? Same number of kids doing sports, and now we have to pay to transport them from school to school to do it.
       —JennyD    Jul. 26 '05 - 09:57PM    #
  70. Of course it’s reasonable, contrary to mw’s assertions, to bring up proposals in a public forum such as this one, whether or not it’s frequented by planners or politicos.

    At the same time, it’s perfectly reasonable for mw, or anyone, to dismiss any proposed idea with some version of “but it will never fly!” or “not fair to impose on a captive audience!”

    I remember similar discussion over banning smoking in prisons and jails. Never fly, not fair, etc. But today our prisons and jails are smoke-free.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 27 '05 - 03:36AM    #
  71. Of course it’s reasonable, contrary to mw’s assertions, to bring up proposals in a public forum such as this one, whether or not it’s frequented by planners or politicos.

    Aargh. That wasn’t the point. Of course it’s appropriate to discuss these issues here. What’s inappropriate, in my mind, is to suggest proposals should be floated by planners and picked up and implemented by ‘decision makers’ whether the public likes them or not.

    I remember similar discussion over banning smoking in prisons and jails. Never fly, not fair, etc. But today our prisons and jails are smoke-free.

    An example that nicely illustrates the point above. Yes, jails and prisons are places where it is acceptable to impose conditions on the ‘customers’ without their consent.

    Do we really want to use that as an analogy for high schools or local government ;)
       —mw    Jul. 27 '05 - 07:27AM    #
  72. It’s a perfect analogy. Don’t you remember high school at all?
       —Parking Structure Dude!    Jul. 27 '05 - 09:55AM    #
  73. Jenny: Commie High kids do far less sports than kids at other high schools. Not having to have the personel costs associated with sports helps too, along with freeing up before- and after-school time for other activities. I can say with certainty that money that would otherwise have been spent on athletics at Commie (because the debate was over to fund a basketball team or not) was instead spent on improvements to the music program (specifically, the jazz program, which aside from occassional big infusions of cash for things like new instruments, manages to pay for itself by gigging at concerts around the world).
       —js    Jul. 27 '05 - 10:07AM    #
  74. It’s a perfect analogy. Don’t you remember high school at all?

    My own high-school had a furlough program so liberal it was almost as if we weren’t locked up at all ;)

    Actually, though, the ‘captive audience’ dynamic has changed fundamentally in one way. It used to be that if a student left a district for whatever reason (moved, dropped out, went to a private school or a parochial school), that was actually good thing financially—the district had the same amount of money but one less mouth to feed.

    But now, in Michigan, if students leave, so do the dollars. And there are more ways to leave even than there used to be (to a charter school, to a nearby open-enrollment district, to home schooling). This requires a whole different mindset on the part of a school system.

    Unfortunately, within the district, our athletic departments (which we’ve been talking about in this thread) run on the old model, where smaller teams mean more money to spend on the few. Wouldn’t it be great, though, if every kid brought a funding allowance with them so that sports had to compete to attract students (and keep them happy) in order to fund the program? Hoo boy, wouldn’t that change the coach-player dynamic ;)
       —mw    Jul. 27 '05 - 12:57PM    #
  75. This current thread seems to have gotten going based on my original comment about an “environmental education”. The issues involved in this school administration are many and bigger than the environment. I just chose to talk about that one issue because the destruction is happening now. Many of them have to do with the secretive, disingenuous, and even duplicitous nature of the school administration. See most of the “responses” they’ve given to those asking for information (much of it needing to be FOIA-ed no less). See the recent principal and personnel shuffling. See how they deal with questions, much less criticism. The school adminstration has a bad track record for spending money and making decisions.

    Todd pointed out that I hadn’t responded. I suppose part of the reason is that this has eaten up a large part of the last year or more of my life and of late I don’t feel the need to jump to answer questions that are either snide in their wording or based on a lack of knowledge of the history of the planning for this school. I’m just tired and apoogize for that.

    Todd asked where else the school might have been built. First of all, there are many people, including past school board members, who note that the district’s high school student population will be dropping soon and so wonder if a 1600-student school is really necessary. Some people wonder, even assuming that capacity were necessary over the long-term, whether a number of smaller schools (more like Community which has a long waiting list) wouldn’t be a better solution. Some people wonder why, after seeing the traffic nightmare that Maple/M-14 already is and how it will be worsened by the school’s location, the AAPS didn’t say, “Wait, we can do better than this. Let’s come up with a better solution.” Why, after seeing the planned environmental destruction of a 109-acre natural site in the Greenbelt didn’t the AAPS say, “Wait, we can do better than this”? (Remember that many more voted for the Greenbelt than for the school; and remember that no on voted for the school on that particular site, as the site was intentionally left off the ballot). Why, after admitting that class size will not be helped even a little by this school, and after everyone pointed to the need for the school in the SE part of town, didn’t the AAPS say, “Wait, we can do better than this”?

    The AAPS did not put it to the voters again to expand facilities near Pioneer. They did not seriously consider building several smaller schools around town (and there are locations for them). The AAPS did not seriously consider the site, large enough for a 1600-student school (even if that were what they really needed), without having to clear-cut 65 acres, in the Pittsfield area.

    Leon left a comment that I would be happy if the school were built “anywhere but near [my] house.” I don’t own a house anymore in Ann Arbor. I live in the district, I have a son who graduated Pioneer in 2001, who will tell you, by the way, that he spent his best school hours in a portable. I do not oppose a school, though I’d rather see several smaller ones for reasons that are obvious. That said, I don’t have to live in Alaska to fight the drilling up there. I don’t have to live in Brasil to oppose the clear cutting of the rain forest. I don’t have to live in Wyoming or Florida to support the preservation of bears or eagles. The invocation of NIMBY-ism is at best the last resort of someone who’s come to the end of reasoned argument and at worst simple name calling to distract from real issues.

    Wherever I live, I oppose a school that requires the destruction of the last contiguous 109-acres in the Greenbelt near the city of Ann Arbor, that requires worsening the already dangerous traffic in the area, that requires it be built on the opposite side of town from the most economically disadvantaged families in the district (talk about who has a car, and can get a far-away school…), that requires an administration to hide information, lie about planning, and manipulate ballot language in order to get voter “approval” and to get work started. (In that vein, the residents on the east side of the site are beginning to realize that whatever informal agreement they worked out with the AAPS is … well, informal. The clear cutting near their property is already greater they were told it would be. The buffer on Maple Road is already smaller than promised and the one resident on Blueberry, though promised a buffer, has the curb of the bus entrance road just a few feet from his property line.)

    archipunk writes, ‘there’s nothing like a construction site in process to convey a vision of “devestationâ€? [sic]’. That’s true. Precisely. Keeping in mind what it was, take a good look at it now.

    He also writes that he is “puzzled by the characterization of the big-box school.” Of course, the reference was to big-box stores and the like. Of course Walmarts are not necessarily bigger than other buildings. That of course is not the point. See: http://proposedhighschool.org/sub/issues/size.html, but more importantly read the Michigan Land Use Institute’s August, 2004 report, Hard Lessons: Causes and Consequences of Michigan’s School Construction Boom, Michigan Land Use Institute, available at: http://www.mlui.org/growthmanagement/fullarticle.asp?fileid=16633

    I think that report should clear things up about large schools from the land use perspective. Of all places, Ann Arbor’s own public schools followed the worst possible trend rather than showing any leadership.

    Tom wrote “Citizens for Responsible Schools, which between legal fees and staff time has taken well over $100,000 of AAPS money out of the classroom this year, would accept the fact that it has exhausted all its options and that it’s time to move on.” It certainly may be time to move on, since the AAPS has always been out of the reach of reason, but the information about who is the cause of money being spent is wrong. I invite you to look into the history of the thing. Read the plans from a year ago, watch the publicly televised board meetings.

    The AAPS new school construction budget from the start had $100,000 set aside for wetland “mitigation” for the “frog pond”. When the potentially endangered speices was found, we told them, based on expert herpetologist advice that the plan was likely to fail. The one expert who said it would work was the one paid by the district to do the work. The superintendent said that the species was plentiful and used for fishbait in other states. The animal was identified as Ambystoma texanum which is in fact listed in Michigan as endangered. It is, in fact plentiful in other states, but is not in Michigan. The Michigan Endangered Species Act (ESA) is written as much to protect biological diversity within the state of Michigan as anything else. That much should be clear, especially to a superintendent who touts his commitment to environmental education. He made himself a laughing stock among his own employees.

    Tom also wrote, “The type of salamander on the school site is actually one that is far from endangered- either way appropriate steps are being taken to ensure that it continues to thrive on the site.” That is not quite true. The animal was finally identified, not as texanum, but as a triploid of Ambystoma, specifically LJJ (two parts laterale and one part jeffersonianum). So, working to the letter of the ESA, that species is not on the endangered list. However, several things of importance should be noted here. Jeffersonianum is much rarer in Michigan than texanum, but unfortunately it is not listed for protection. Though the MDNR can, by rule, protect any animal not listed as if it were listed, there was no political will to do so, to fight the powerful school district. (In Michigan, school distircts are exempt from local ordinances and most state ones too. Add this to the general feeling that anyone who questions a school district should have their own motives questioned, and you get an omnipotent public body that goes unchecked. By the way, if the AAPS actually were to voluntarily comply, as it says it is doing, with the City ordinance about wetlands, the pond could not be destroyed or moved).

    Back to the comment about being “far from endangered”, hybridization is part of the way these animals reproduce. Ask any herpetologist and they will tell you that not enough is known about how hybridization really works in the long-term life cycles of these animals. The particular Ambystoma triploid, LJJ is rare and no one knows, and now will never be able to find out, how this triploid species got there and how it has been able to sustain itself through generations.

    With the NAP as monitor for the plan (which is funded by the City that recently cut the Parks Dept.), it was not just CRS, but nationally respected experts in the field who wondered about the long-term viability of a man-made “wetland” to sustain these species in a mostly paved over, artificially lit environment. “Appropriate steps are” not “being taken to ensure that it continues to thrive on the site.” It will not thrive on the site. It will likely die off on the site. You should be skeptical of information from the rose-colored Ann Arbor News (especially when it has to do with development) and talk to experts in the field who can tell you what appropriate steps are. The frog pond, as of today, 7/27/05, is poised to be bulldozed, and you can be sure that there are probably thousands of tadpoles and the like still in there.

    While we’re on the subject of the Ann Arbor News and its reporting, when informed of its erroneous reporting of the number of fatalities on Maple near M-14, it did not retract its lower number. If you think the site can be made safe for students rushing to school, arriving even via M-14, to meet 1800 cars in the hour between 7 and 8 am converging at the school from only one access road, you’ve probably been getting your news from that paper. But I digress.

    So, CRS did not cause the district to take $100,000 from the classrooms. I, personally, rather than a disingenous “plan” from the start to “save the pond”, would much have preferred truth from the Superintendent and the Board in the form of a statement to the effect, “We care much more about student learning and won’t spend a penny on trying to save animals whose habitat we’ll be destroying. We know as well as you do, that wetland mitigations fail 80% of the time. Let’s not put our money there. Let’s just save that $100,000 and put it in the classroom.” That would have been much better and much appreciated.

    I want to apologize for the length of this comment and for any tone of frustration, which comes from how we allow an unregulated public body to manipulate informaton to get what it wants despite the long-term ramifications (and I’m not talking about the Bush administration). I just wanted to comment on a few of the direct questions to me and a few of the errors of fact in some of the comments.
       —Alan Pagliere    Jul. 27 '05 - 07:27PM    #
  76. Alan, I want to offer a different perpsective on the issues/events you describe.

    First, the school administration has been shuffling principals and personnel for years and years, regardless of the composition of the board and the administration. Perhaps it’s a not a conspiracy. Perhaps personnel matters cannot and should not be part of public debate. These are people, and this is their employment, and they may have reasons they want to be moved. Perhaps a principal dislikes the parents in a school and wants out. I have heard that such a situation happened in the past. But I have no solid evidence, of course.

    There are several reasons why creating a few more Commie Highs won’t work. Much as I like smaller high schools, there is pretty decent research evidence that Commie is actually too small to be as effective as it can be. Perhaps Commie is the exception. I don’t know.

    But more than that, AAPS has a finite amount of money to spend on operations, which includes salaries and building operation. Let’s imagine that we had three more high schools to operate, all smaller. EAch would need a librarian, a nurse, a principal, etc. becuase these positions are required, some by law. That would duplicate the costs incurred if you build one larger high school. Given that Ann Arbor is already struggling to run the existing schools on its current state allocation, the idea of running several more doesn’t make financial sense. This isn’t the fault of AAPS; blame Proposal A and the voters who supported it.

    Perhaps your son enjoyed learning in a portable. Perhaps other parents’ children do not enjoy a portable. Both are equally relevant to the question of a new school.

    As for school population, the district is notoriously bad at estimating school population. Meanwhile, there is plenty of evidence that the school population in the west and northwest part of the district is increasing. At least they got that right.

    Also, one of the reasons Commie High might be so popular is that it is the richest and whitest school in the entire district. Affluent, white parents want their kids to go there. Check the waiting list, is it all rich, white kids? Do we really want to support a system that creates more segregation by race and class?

    As for dangerous traffic, I say it should be shared equally by all part of the city. Pioneer already has dangerous traffic. The daughter of a friend was struck and seriously hurt one morning as she was walking to Pioneer this spring. (The driver was a 16-year-old on her way to school who had her license for a few months; another reason to talk about why student parking should be limited…) No matter where you build a school, there will be additionally traffic. I don’t find that to be a compelling argument. No one wants it. But if you live in a community where you have to share civic burdens, that there it is.

    I read the links you put up about land use. I agree with a number of points. But again, this doesn’t change the problem for AAPS. They are limited in what they can do by the amount of money they get from the state. Why are communities all building big high schools? Because they cannot afford to operate small ones under Prop A, for reasons I said above. Also, since AA does not accept students from outside the district, it is not building a big school to attract outsiders.

    Also, a detail about school finance: Most districts do not try to attract high school kids, but rather go after elementary and middle school kids. Why? Because high schoolers tend to cost more to educate than the state allocates. Districts make money on a little kids, and lose money on big ones.

    Alan, my biggest concern is that there are people in town who complain that a school for 1600 kids is too big for decent education, but they would condemn my kids to attend schools with more than 2000 kids for environmental reasons. You offer no solutions, just roadblocks. You never mention education in this post, or studnets, except to say your son enjoyed learning in a portable. It seems that, in your eyes, the kids in this community are less deserving of decent treatment than a pond.

    I’m looking to consider alternatives, but not to drag it on forever. This is a pressing problem. We need to solve it. Either help, or let the majority of the community do what we have consensus to do.
       —JennyD    Jul. 28 '05 - 09:15AM    #
  77. Alan,

    Thanks for trying to answer my question. You say that statistics show that the number of high school students will be dropping soon. Later in that paragraph, you say “that class size will not be helped even a little by this school”. If the number of students are decreasing in the district, and we are presumably hiring new teachers for this new HS, then how is it possible that the student to teacher ratio won’t drop favorably in the school district? Are they laying off teachers at Pioneer et. al.? Clearly, math isn’t my strong suit.

    To reiterate, I think that the school or schools should go downwtown.

    Community HS has a wait list. Obviously, they are doing something right. Stick in a building or two here or there as demand warrants. Start with the 1st and William site. Call it Commie HS South campus.

    Since someone was kind enough to point out that’s it’s ok to use bonds to raise money for school buildings. Terrific, now we have a way to pay the ridiculous $1 Million clean up costs needed to remediate that site (instead of blowing greenbelt funds on it). Make it six stories so that the neigbors don’t go apoplectic.

    The students would be centrally located. The wait list for Commie would be shortened/eliminated. The City would make some $$ back from selling the land. We could incrementally increase the capacity of the area high schools.

    And of course, this will never happen.
       —todd l.    Jul. 28 '05 - 09:45AM    #
  78. I should post the link to the AAPS school demographics. Here is the one for race/ethnicity:

    http://www.aaps.k12.mi.us/aaps.about/aaps.data0304/number_and_percentage-_ethnic_group_school

    Look to compare demographics for all AA schools, it’s from S&P SChool Matters site:

    http://www.schoolmatters.com/App/SES/SPSServlet/LocationSearchRequest?StateID=23&Page=10&LocLevelID=118&LocationName=&CityName=Ann+Arbor&StateID1=23&ZipCode=&Distance=&Advanced=false&x=17&y=10
       —JennyD    Jul. 28 '05 - 09:47AM    #
  79. JennyD,

    Can a second building a few blocks away from Commie HS be considered part of Commie’s campus, allowing the two buidings to share administrators, nurses, principals, etc.?

    If so, my idea rocks. If not, I’m an uniformed fool.
       —todd l.    Jul. 28 '05 - 10:26AM    #
  80. Todd, good question. I don’t know.
       —JennyD    Jul. 28 '05 - 10:51AM    #
  81. Maybe our walking encyclopedia Larry K. knows. I have visions of him sitting on top of a mountain, doling out wisdom to the uniformed like myself. I am consistently amazed at the Michigan info. he has at his fingertips.

    If he doesn’t know, the answer does not exist. :)
       —todd l.    Jul. 28 '05 - 11:16AM    #
  82. I strive to be courteous and respectful in online fora as well as in person, but I don’t always succeed. I very much apologize to everyone if I am coming across as an arrogant thinks-he-knows-it-all.

    It is true that I am usually more interested in actual data than in ideology, but I am certainly not a walking encyclopedia. My information or supposed wisdom is not necessarily better or worse than anyone else’s. I don’t think I have ever claimed otherwise.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 28 '05 - 11:33AM    #
  83. Larry,

    I meant that as a compliment…..I should apologize as obviously that didn’t come across that way.

    My messed up sense of humor doesn’t work very well on the internet. It’s just that you know an awful lot about Mich. government and its civic history. I am just constantly impressed by your knowledge…...and embarrassed when I make uniformed comments.
       —todd l.    Jul. 28 '05 - 12:05PM    #
  84. oops,

    I almost forgot. Do you know the answer re: separate building for Commie high?
       —todd l.    Jul. 28 '05 - 12:11PM    #
  85. High schools are sometimes structured as a “campus” of separate buildings, so I don’t see why Community couldn’t be.

    Thank you for your kind words, and I certainly didn’t mean to embarrass you.
       —Larry Kestenbaum    Jul. 28 '05 - 12:22PM    #
  86. Oops, “uninformed” comments. Jeez, I can’t catch a break here.
       —todd l.    Jul. 28 '05 - 01:26PM    #
  87. Jenny: Your links have fuxxored my page!
    Here’s how to do a link in textpattern (which is retarded, I know):
    You put the “link text” in quotations, then a colon, then the URL. It would look like this “link goes here” : http://www.jennyd.com, only without the spaces.
    I hate textpattern, but those in the know have chosen it…
       —js    Jul. 28 '05 - 01:37PM    #
  88. Yeah, if anyone can intervene in the comments and put a return in the middle of that URL, I think we would all still know where to go and have a nice page on our screen, too.
       —Dale    Jul. 28 '05 - 01:50PM    #
  89. Sorry. On my blog, Haloscan takes care of all that for me.
       —JennyD    Jul. 28 '05 - 02:38PM    #
  90. Ironically, when I was heading to high school, Community was begging for students (literally, they came to all the sixth grade classes and begged people to come). Parents desperately tried to keep their kids from going to Community because it was known as a non-academic school for “burnouts.” Now parents are desperately trying to get their kids into Community even when the kids want to go to Huron or Pioneer. I think it is looked at now as the cheapest private high school in Ann Arbor.
       —Juliew    Jul. 28 '05 - 03:39PM    #
  91. Julie: My high school class was the first one to have the line, yet when I was in 6th grade they were still sending out flyers begging kids from the open schools to go to Commie. Part of it was that there was a bulge in the hose, if you will, of upper class liberal kids who had gone to the open schools, starting about a year or two ahead of me (I only got into the open schools because my family was poor, and they had a certain number of slots open at the elementary level for us disadvantaged types). The very things that attracted “burn outs,” like an emphasis on arts and on self-directed learning, started putting kids in Ivies, and Commie got cachet. Out went the old hippie dean (Bob Gilardi) and in came the soccer mom dean Judy Conger (she’s got a new name now, but I can’t ever remember it). It is weird how, in some ways, succeeding really destroyed a lot of what made the school so special. It is pretty much just another private school now, but hey, it was nice while it lasted.
       —js    Jul. 28 '05 - 06:18PM    #