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LOCS Board backs Pine Tree as special education facility

Pine Tree Elementary

At its public meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2017, the Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education supported renovating and reopening the former Pine Tree Elementary building as an Oakland County special education facility.

Imagined as a Separate Center Program for All, the facility would operate in conjunction with the Oakland Intermediate School District. The rebooted building would be a center-based special education facility for ASD elementary and middle school aged students in northern Oakland County. On behalf of the Oakland ISD, it would service those who need a separate educationally therapeutic setting based on their specific special needs. The facility would fill a need for surrounding school districts, reducing travel time for those students and providing them a new, updated learning environment.

After a Board committee explored multiple possible options for the closed school facility, the LOCS administration proposed the collaboration at a Board workshop earlier in August and the Board endorsed further exploration. The LOCS administration and special education director Julie Gutman will continue to meet with the ISD to further the possibility of remaking the venue to serve the students.

The move would benefit the LOCS district and the Oakland ISD in multiple ways:

• Provides programs for ASD elementary and middle school aged students in northern Oakland County, including students from other districts. (There is no change to the ASD programs that will be housed at Orion Oaks and Blanche Sims Elementary Schools.)

• Complements the Oakland ISD Hazel Park ASD and EI center programs in the southern part of the county.

• Relocates the PHASES program, which serves post-secondary aged adults and is currently housed in the CERC building. This allows for expansion of the program to students from surrounding districts as well.

• Renovation costs would be minimal and likely would not need capital funding.

• LOCS would receive the tuition from additional students.

• Sustains the building designated for educational use.

• Maintains the Pine Tree facility as an operating, not vacant, structure.

LOCS administration believes work could begin as early as January 2018.

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