Ann Arbor Public schools officials have long recognized the need for a third high school in the city. Forty years after purchasing land for a new facility, passions are heating up as Ann Arbor parents and students argue against proposals surrounding the school. But University students who graduated from local high schools said some of the controversy is overplayed.
The Board of Education has owned the property on the corner of M-14 and Maple Rd. since the 1960s, but decided a new school has now become a necessity, said Liz Nowland-Margolis, communications director of Ann Arbor Public Schools.
There are currently 2,200 students at Huron, 450 at Community High and 2,300 students at Pioneer.
The Board is building the school to alleviate the problems of overcrowding, Nowland-Margolis said. The new school is slated to open in the fall of 2008.
LSA senior Sheena Darty, a Pioneer High School graduate, said the halls were often so crowded that students had to push their peers out of the way to get to class.
“It was like a fight for your life to get to class,” Darty said.
She added that most of the classes consisted of 30 or more students, despite the portable classrooms located on the tennis courts and behind the school.
LSA sophomore Aaron Markel, a graduate of Huron High School, said his classes were not crowded but the hallways were often jammed.
“The design had more to do with (overcrowding) than the actual number of students,” he said. “Five hallways converge at one point.”
The new school’s $96.3 million budget – $8.4 million over the Board of Education’s original budget – is a main point of contention between parents and administrators.
Additional expenses include a geothermal heat pump, which will save thousands of dollars per year for the district and a wind turbine, which will be used to study wind speeds in science classes.
The school will have a state-of-the-art theater as well.
While some University students said the current budget seems somewhat excessive, many others said they think designing an attractive building is important.
“High school is bad enough as it is, I don’t think sticking kids in a plain brick building will make things better,” Markel said.
Plans for redistricting are undecided. The first class of students at the new high school may consist of only entering freshman or redistricted students from Pioneer and Huron High Schools.
Most University students said the best option would be to use the new building for entering freshmen so that older students from Pioneer and Huron High Schools would not be separated from their friends.