ALBION, Mich.,– With the new school year just days away, two districts in Calhoun County are looking toward the future after they chose to consolidate districts.
In May of this year Albion’s school board made the decision to close its high school, making it only a K-8 district. School leaders say they were looking to cover an expected 1 million dollar budget shortfall due to declining enrollment.
A collaborative effort was made between Albion and Marshall schools to send high-schoolers there and all summer they have been working to make it a smooth transition.
R-J Stone always imagined he would graduate an Albion wildcat, he already has his class ring and everything but he’s actually looking forward to graduate as a Marshall Redhawk now.
“I feel like I’m preparing myself for the future. Just like when I go off to college its going to be different with a whole bunch of other people. I’m just excited,” he said.
Last year there were only around 150 kids attending Albion High School, just about 40 in the graduating class. School leaders say there wasn’t even enough students to make a varsity football team. Students from Albion didn’t have to go Marshall but the option was given and around 120 students accepted.
Albion school board president Donald Phillips says situations like this are happening all across the state and they had to make a choice on what was best for their students.
Marshall’s school board president, Victor Potter said this was also needed for their district. “Marshall needed this also because of our financials. Without this going on right now we would probably be 700,000 to a million deficit this year. Now we will almost break even because of the extra kids,” he said.
Over the summer the two districts held events for the students from each high school to get to know each other, one was a three-day symposium at Albion College.
“We also talked about diversity, about some of the challenges that may be there. It was very successful the students really learned a lot,” said Phillips.
“We just started mingling with each other, we made friends within those groups and from there on it just continued to flourish,” said Stone.
It’s been no easy road and its far from over but school leaders say the change is one that overall will improve the opportunities and education for their students.