Citizens and property owners living in the Westside Saginaw area of Congress, Mackinaw, Adams Boulevard, Gratiot and surrounding areas need to be aware of plans that are in the works to transform the current St. Stephens Parish Campus, located at 2711 Mackinaw Street into a Homeless Shelter for teenagers and young adults up to 16-26 years of age who have either dropped out of high school, or been suspended or expelled and are not permitted to attend their local public high school.
A Special Meeting will be held on Thursday, June 9th at 6:30 PM at Michigan Lutheran Seminary, at 2777 Hardin Street, which is just off Court Street. I realize the short notice on this, but no organization notified The Review of this meeting; and I only learned about it today from a notice sent by the Adams Boulevard Association.
Parish officials are currently considering a proposal to lease the existing elementary school building to Covenant Academy, which is an outgrowth of Covenant House – a non-profit entity that is no way related with the local Covenant Healthcare System, that provides shelter to homeless teenagers & young adults at venues scattered across the United States, Canada, and Latin America.
A few pertinent points:
• The proposed facility will offer free alternate education, even though there are similar programs to this one throughout the City of Saginaw.
• The program provides year round class schedules & enrollment.
• Two Daily Sessions Are Proposed. Morning from 7:30 am – 11:30 am and Afternoon 11:30 am – 3:30 PM. Currently these are similar operational hours at Arthur Hill High School & Thompson Middle.
• Students work at their own pace and schedules are flexible. No timeframes are established for completion or graduation.
• Yearly graduation rates are low for the program and Covenant House representatives refuse to provide statistics.
• The Program expects to attract students county-wide.
• A tentative estimate of potential student enrollment is 350 students. Currently there are approximately 1,000 students at both AHHS & Thompson Middle that are transported daily either by car or city busses, so there would be a substantial increase in traffic congestion.
• Detroit, Grand Rapids & Muskegon have Covenant Academy Programs. The three Detroit schools include a residential/housing complex component.
• Covenant Academy proposes to begin offering classes beginning in August of this year.
• A similar Charter School providing alternative education programs for similar students is currently operating in the former St. Helens Elementary School Building on N. Charles St. The disruptive nature of that program has significantly diminished the quality of life for residents in that program.
Neighborhood residents and people concerned with the viability of the last remaining vestige of the City of Saginaw with any tangible property tax value and quality of life are highly urged to attend this meeting. Your input will be conveyed to Parish Officials. Time is of the essence before a final decision is made.
Representatives from Covenant Academy and St. Stephens Parish have been invited to attend.
The notion that officials and educators would deem to transport and open one of the last viable neighborhoods that still retains fundamental elements of safety, upkeep, and property value to augmented denigration through increased traffic and unwarranted exposure to individuals that have already proven their inability to function responsibly in society - especially given the fact that similar programs already exist within the city – is mind-boggling.
The fact that students whom have already proven their lack of discipline are given no time-frames or deadlines for completing their graduation is particularly disturbing – it accomplishes nothing except to enable their current pathway of dissolution; for as Oscar Wilde so aptly noted, “If one doesn’t stand for something, it enables one to fall for anything.
But more importantly, where is the leadership in this city? Millions of dollars are spent each year on city development and so-called neighborhood revitalization to attract business and viable homeowner investment; yet instead of locating such an entity in a venue such as North School or Webber, the Board of Education closes and/or tears them down. In the case of Webber, apparently the cost of repairing a bad roof was too costfly; yet putting an entire neighborhood district at risk equates with economic stewardship.
If you care about the future of the City of Saginaw and all the significant inroads made in recent years towards improving and retaining the quality of life within the last viable economic sector left within this community, I highly urge you to attend this meeting and make your voices heard!
EDITOR'S NOTE • UPDATE
It has come to my attention since posting this article last night that certain information contained in this piece is inaccurate, allegedly advanced by a vocal group within the ABANA to distort facts to help defeat what supporters feel is an excellent program for disconnected youth.
Here are highlights of what has been brought to my attention over the past 24-hours:
• Covenant House is NOt a Homeless Shelter, nor is it affiliated with Covenant House
• It is a unique program supported by a large number of individuals & organizations throughout the community including SVSU & Delta Colleges.
• Covenant Academy will provide disconnected youth with a state certified diploma.
• It is not a GED Adult Ed program and not an EtC program (the program creating issues over at St. Helens).
• The director of the Muskegon program, which this plan is modeled after, is a Ms. Lahaie that can be contacted at 231-720-3100. Questions can also be addressed tto Jim Van Tiflin at the Saginaw Chamber of Commerce, Jean Goodnow at Delta College, or Renee Johnston at the Saginaw Community Foundation.
Because I am tied up with a new issue deadline hitting tomorrow and pre-press issues today, I am unable to provide additional follow-up in advance of tomorrow's meeting. As noted in my piece, I first heard about this last night, so one would think adopting such an expansive countywide program in an area that already has considerable traffic congestion from Thompson & Arthur Hill would at least warrant a 30-day notice period in the form of a press release in advance of this public meeting tomorrow night; so my goal with this piece was to at least get word out there with the limited information that I was provided on such short notice.