Montessori Reconstruction Information

September 27, 2019 Update

Montessori Reconstruction Project Delayed

Due to a number of constraints that have arisen during the design phase of the project for the new Montessori school on 14th Street, it has become clear that completion of the building by 2021 will not be possible. 

As you may remember, TCAPS engaged in visioning sessions with Montessori staff and families to aid in the decision as to the desired location of the school, the grade levels it would serve, and building design/curricular needs to accommodate the Montessori environment. It was necessary to make these decisions in February so the district could properly plan for occupancy in the fall of 2021. 

The TCAPS Board of Education unanimously approved the recommendation to serve toddler through eighth grade on the 14th Street location for the Montessori Reconstruction project at its February 11, 2019, meeting. Immediately thereafter, the district began working with the City and submitted a final design in June 2019 along with payment for a review of the district’s application for the vacation of Griffin Street. On Monday, September 23, 2019, the district received notification that the first phase of the process (City staff review) to vacate Griffin Street was not supported. 

In addition to the City’s response, as the design and construction team has been developing a plan for the school, several constraints have been identified. For information regarding the constraints to the project and/or other potential impacts, see additional information below.

We take the responsibility of school reconstruction very seriously. Given that the original target timeline is no longer feasible, the district intends to pause to take another look at all of the options available prior to determining next steps. We believe it is important to take the necessary time to get it right because we are tasked with building a school that will be there for at least the next 50 years, so this is an undertaking that must be done in a responsible manner. The Superintendent will work with the Board of Education to determine the appropriate review and decision-making structure going forward. Staff and families will be updated as this work progresses.

Additional Information

Background

 

  • On Monday, February 11, 2019, the TCAPS Board of Education unanimously approved the recommendation to serve toddler through eighth grade on the 14th Street location for the Montessori Reconstruction project. 
     
  • Additional facility details at the time included: the school will be constructed to serve between 500-550 students, it is expected to be a two-story building with approximately 68,000 square feet of space, it will be designed with outside areas for gardens, a playground, a parking lot, and a designated pick-up/drop-off area. 
     
  • The decisions about the location and grade span in February were necessary so the district could plan for occupancy in the fall of 2021.
Current State and Considerations

 

  • During the process of working with the City on a street vacation request (Griffin Street), several potential issues and/or delays have come to the district’s attention.
     
  • The district began working with the City in February and submitted a final design in June 2019 along with payment for a review of the district’s application for the vacation of Griffin Street.
     
  • On Monday, September 23, 2019, the district received notification that the first phase of the process (City staff review) to vacate Griffin Street was not supported. In its response, the City stated that it is attempting to: “(1) maintain access to the neighborhoods inclusive of the school district; (2) protect the utility of the collector street (14th Street); (3) maintain the established trail connecting the Boardman Lake Loop Trail to future trails to the west which includes a connection to Traverse City West Middle School; and (4) eliminate large exposures of parking lots along the street, activating adjacent properties to a higher land use”.
     
  • In addition, the construction and design team has been developing the plan and/or design for the new TCAPS Montessori School on 14th Street and several constraints have been encountered. They are as follows: 
    • Storm Drainage & Capacity at Thirlby Field Campus: Existing site is at/or near capacity. The scope, cost and timeline to resolve this issue is unknown at this time.
       
    • Meeting the instructional needs of the school:
      • Without the vacation of Griffin Street, the limited site has eliminated the option for a “pod” structure, which is recommended for Montessori environments and was discussed with the Visioning Group.
         
      • Putting the building north of Griffin Street (rendering submitted by the City with letter dated 9/23/19) has shrunk the overall square footage possible for the building itself, this eliminates a classroom or reduces all classroom sizes to accommodate the same number of classrooms.
    • Meeting the safety needs of the school:
      • Two-way traffic by the dedicated drop off zone adds risk for cars dropping students off the wrong way, creating a situation where students can cross in front of cars without supervision.
         
      • Crossing Griffin Street to get to the playground (The City doesn’t have the authority to close portions of Griffin Street down during school hours.). Additionally, possible solutions like an overhead walkway is not feasible for a school because of state law. 
         
      • Sharing space with Thirlby Field. Currently the design option with the building north of Griffin St. is eliminating the entrance and gate off Griffin Street and puts the drop off lane on top of the sidewalk around the field.
    • Future Expansion:
      • Required building program maximizes the site and does not allow for any future expansion whether it continues as a Montessori school or not in the life expectancy of the building.
         
      • Completely landlocked by Pine, 13th, 14th, the stadium, and Griffin Street.
    • Relocating Existing Utilities:
      • Significant cost to relocate
         
      • Unknown schedule impact
         
      • Not currently supported by the City
    • Other impacts for the entire site related to the City’s site recommendation:
      • Limited number of parking spaces available onsite for the school, no dedicated parking for Thirlby Field activities, currently approximately 300-350 cars can park on our property, (210 facility use events for 2018).
         
      • Operational issues with snow plowing and snow storage in the winter, may increase costs if required to haul away.
         
      • Off-site/street parking will be required, causing increased congestion in the neighborhood, especially as more students begin the 7th and 8th grade options.
         
      • Northeast corner of the site is too small for the building program, will not fit as originally planned and pushes the car line into the flags and memorial at Thirlby.
         
      • Eliminates field access from the southeast corner, any new ticketing would have to occur in the center or on the southwest side.The north-south drive is two-way on the top third and one-way off 14th, adding a four way intersection.
         
      • The plan also creates more points of access, sidewalks from the building to the street-side sidewalk. 
         
      • Eliminates a practice/warm-up area for Thirlby Field.
         
      • Suggesting an additional building on the property, with no identified need.

How will the change in timeline impact the addition of the inclusion of the adolescent program?
TCAPS still intends to accept 7th graders at the current building location for the 2020-2021 school year. In addition, TCAPS expects to be able to accommodate the 8th graders in the current building for the 2021-2022 school year, by creatively using current building space in the short term. 

Contact Information

 

  • Christine Thomas-Hill, Associate Superintendent of Finance and Operations 
    Traverse City Area Public Schools
    231.933.1730
  • Christine Guitar, Executive Director of Communications 
    Traverse City Area Public Schools
    231.933.1795
  • Lisa VanLoo, Principal 
    TCAPS Montessori at Glenn Loomis
    231.933.6422

Page updated 12/5/19

December 2019 Update

Adjusted Timeline for Occupancy 2022

  • Decision on location by February 2020
  • Finish schematic design by April 2020
  • Finish design development by July 2020
  • Finish construction documents by December 2020
  • Bid/award contract by February 20221
  • Start construction in April 2021
  • Occupy building by July 2022