Complaints about charter school continue

Jun. 13, 2013  PLYMOUTH EAGLE. 

 

Several residents of Rolling Oaks subdivision in Plymouth Township remain unhappy with the appearance, construction and safety standards of Plymouth Scholars Charter Academy and the conduct of parents with children enrolled at the school.

The school is located in the center of the subdivision, off North Territorial Road, in an area that was, for many years, used as green space by the residents. It utilizes 9 of the 15-acres that comprise the subdivision. Many residents claimed to know nothing about the construction of the school until bulldozers and earth moving machines showed up nearly in their backyards in the spring of 2012.

After construction began in April of 2012, residents attended a meeting of the Plymouth Township Planning Commission to protest the building of the school and demanded to know how approval of the 47,000 square foot structure in their back-yards occurred. The planning commission recommended approval of the construction, labeled as a “condominium plan” to the Plymouth Township Board of Trustees who unanimously approved the “condominium subdivision plan” for property owner and developer Enrico Soave at a Feb. 7, 2012 meeting, according to official township meeting minutes.

Plymouth Township building and planning regulations include “schools” under the “condominium” classification.

Plymouth Scholars Charter Academy Board of Directors President Rocco Bellino sent a letter to the owners of the nearby homes announcing a meeting May 22 at the school to address subdivision residents’ concerns and “…to take questions about the school and what we can do to improve its appearance.”

Richard Sharland who lives across the street from the new charter school and who has been critical of the appearance of the building said, “Things got rather intense when the conversation centered on the school’s appearance.”

The fiberboard building has been strongly criticized for what neighbors call “shoddy construction” with nails popping out of both the interior and exterior walls. School buildings are not inspected by local municipalities to ensure they adhere to local restrictions and codes, but are required to be inspected by the state. “Those codes often exceed ours,” a Plymouth Township Building Department employee said. Likewise, the local fire department has no authority to inspect the building without permission of the governing board. “We have no control over those buildings. They are all state controlled. It is strictly under the rules of the state,” noted Plymouth Township Fire Chief Mark Wendel. “Of course, if there were a fire, we would respond,” he added. “We are not even allowed to do fire inspections there unless we are given permission by the principal,” he said.

Wendel said the school must meet state building standards and fire codes and that school building “must be designed to state standards.” School buildings are only inspected by the state at the initial construction or when an addition, renovation or remodeling takes place. There is no required regular inspection interval, according to local school officials.

Paul Buckley, one of the neighbors impacted by the school building had a two- page list of concerns and complaints he compiled for the May 22 meeting.

Buckley noted that the construction-disrupted lawns have still not been returned to their previous condition and that there are severe drainage problems.

Parents who pick up their children after school frequently park in private driveways, according to Buckley, and in the subdivision swimming pool parking lot and the nearby church lot. All those roads are private, Buckley noted in his list of concerns. He also cited some serious traffic safety concerns about the driving habits of parents dropping off or picking up students. No bus service is provided by the charter school, part of National Heritage Academies.

He also noted that parents have made obscene gestures to the residents during the traffic snarls and that verbal insults have been exchanged as tempers flare during the high traffic hours around the school.

He ended his written comments noting that the school should have been constructed with some stone or brick on the exterior. He said the building resembles a prison or a factory.

“You can paint the school any color you want and it won’t affect anything on this list,” he added. “You have forever changed our lives and not for the good.”

|News Plymouth Michigan

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