Category Archives: Lansing Township

School Of Choice

Parents in Lansing Township have a choice when it comes to their children’s education, and some school districts like Waverly Community Schools are benefiting from being one of their options.

According to the Michigan Department of Education website, School of Choice gives students the option to choose where they attend school. Through this state law, families can enroll their students in a school outside of the district in which they reside. Once a student is accepted to a school through school of choice, they can stay in that district until they graduate from high school or decide to leave.

School districts do not have to participate in School of Choice.

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Lansing Township Walks and Bikes

Imagine spending a day in town; shopping, going to the movies, topped with a delicious dinner at a fancy restaurant, without having to spend a dollar on gas.

Sounds crazy, right?

But that is exactly what Lansing Township hopes to accomplish with their development plan of creating pedestrian and bicycle paths throughout the northeastern quadrant of the township. The plan would use a mixture of shared-use pathways for bikes and walkers, sidewalks, bike lanes and bike routes to give residents a broader choice when it comes to transportation.

Steven Hayward, director of development for the township, said that the goal of the plan was to offer alternative transportation methods without slowing down traffic. “There should never be a hindrance,” said Hayward, “otherwise that is where conflict begins.”

The township developed a concept plan in 2005 that proposed the idea of developing pedestrian walkways and bicycle paths throughout the township, Dewitt Township, Lansing and East Lansing, spanning both Ingham and Clinton Counties.

The plan would create four corridors, each reaching out from the Eastwood Towne Center: North corridor would run to two major mobile home communities and Granger Meadows Park in Dewitt, South would reach toward Pattengill Middle School, Lansing Catholic Central High School and Eastern High School through Groesbeck neighborhood and Wood Road; Southwest would stretch in towards the northern side of Lansing using Lansing River Trail and through Lansing Old Town; and East would link to East Lansing and Dewitt Township.

The plan outlined many benefits for creating new walkways and bicycle paths, including safer travel for non-motorized transportation, reducing motor vehicle congestion, and improving property values.
Adding sidewalks to the roads is considerably inexpensive, costing about $10 per foot of sidewalks. Because bike lanes only require restriping the roads and adding signs they cost only $.05 per foot according to Steven Hayward, director of Planning and Development for the township.

Maintaining both sidewalks and bike lanes is easier than roads because they cause less stress on the roads then automobiles and funding for the bike system comes from the Tax Increment Financing Authority, which redistributes 25% of the increases in taxes and reinvests them in development.

Hayward said that since the township formed the plan, they have created bike lanes and sidewalks along Wood Street, Lake Lansing Road, and Kerry Street.

Creating pedestrian friendly paths is not only a priority for the township, but for other municipalities as well. Hayward said that the City of Lansing is planning to place bicycle paths on Lake Lansing Road from the Quality Dairy to the city limit this spring. In 2009, East Lansing plans to extend the bicycle lanes of Coleman Road to Wood Street.

John Daher, supervisor of Lansing Township, thinks that developing bike paths and pedestrian walkways can help the Greater Lansing area economically and environmentally. Daher thinks that it can help local businesses when residents decide to walk instead of drive. “Cars drive right through,” said Daher. “Walkers and bikers stop and shop.”

Hayward believes that these pathways could enhance business. “Not everyone wishes or can afford to drive a car. Also, the idea that one within Eastwood that you can easily walk to your next location makes it more convenient for people to stick around and support the businesses.”

Erica Capetillo works at the management office at Eastwood Towne Center and sees many shoppers who walk to the shopping center.

“It would be pretty convenient for both workers and shoppers,” said Capetillo. “I hear plenty of costumers who said they walked here.”

Strategic Plan Improves Education, Communication and Character

Waverly Community Schools 2006-2007 Strategic Planning Update, presented to the board of education in June of 2007 shows that the Waverly school district has progressed in the past year in curriculum, communication but falls short in their plan of increasing diversity throughout the school system.

The Strategic Plan started in 1995 as a five-year project in order to improve the education of students in the school district. After the first phase, the Strategic Plan was adopted in May of 2006.

Wavlery Board of Education Treasurer Calvin Jones feels that the Strategic Plan will help members of the community see how the school is developing. Jones feels that the Strategic Plan makes the Waverly district unique.

“All of the community had a different vision of why we were unique,” said Jones. “This puts everybody on a level playing field.”

Mary Ann Martin, a Waverly school district board of education trustee, said that she thought the Strategic Plan was very effective. “It’s a wonderful thing,” said Martin. “It offers us a guide to help direct the district.”

Waverly Superintendent Tom Pillar said that the goal of the Strategic Plan is to develop systems throughout the district that will help students learn and faculty teach.

The Strategic Plan outlines a plan to help students to “achieve personally challenging educational goals… demonstrate the ability to think, problem solve, communicate and apply social and technological skills… [And] the percentage of students who meet or exceed the state standard on all areas tested in the Michigan Educational Assessment will increase annually.”

The plan outlines a four-step strategy to achieve the goals of the plan: Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment; Communications; Diversity and Character Development.

“We don’t want to establish one plan,” said Pillar, “and establish another. Then we would make more [plans] and it would never end. The goal is to see four overall strategies acculturated in the organization so that they are automatic.”

The Curriculum Instruction and Assessment focuses on improving students’ performance on the MEAP test through online practice tests provided by Study Island, a company focused on developing educational computer programs that prepare students for standardized tests.

The Communications step will work to improve communication throughout the school districts. According to the plan, schools will implement an online system called Study Buddy. By improving communication through a Waverly Intranet system, the district will increase efficiency between officials.

The school district will also work to increase awareness and respect for diversity throughout the district in the third step of the Strategic Plan. The plan will offer diversity celebrations, as well as hiring a more diverse staff.

The final step is Character Development, which focuses on the evaluation of individual students traits, encouraging members of the community to support these character traits and hold faculty members to that standard. The plan calls for creating Student code of conduct, a Relay for Life team and a non violent crisis prevention program.

Halfway through the project, Waverly Community Schools has seen a great improvement to their educational programs. According to the Strategic Planning Update for the 2006-07 school year, the district has met all their goals for curriculum, diversity and character development. But they have not been able to reach their goals for communication. The report also says that they are working to increase diverse representation in Waverly’s staff.

Pillar said that the Strategic Plan helps the school district control their future. Pillar believes that more schools will develop their own strategic plans. “The environment for education is very unstable right now,” said Pillar. “And that comes from the state, because of necessary cuts that are unforeseen.”

Assistant Superintendent Jacklin Blodgett feels that overall the plan is successful. With only two and a half years completed, the plan “helps bring together the community to work on improving school. It gives us a direction.”

General Motors, Lansing Township Agree to Demolition

General Motors Corporation will begin demolishing two vacant factories in Lansing Township by the end of this month. The plants stopped production in 2006.

At a joint planning commission and general town meeting last week, Lansing Township approved demolition of the factories as long as GM will comply with the resolution. The resolution says GM will cover the site with vegetation and remove all structural remains of the plant. GM and the township started talks a year ago in February 2007.

Matt Brinkley, the assistant planner for the township said during the township meeting that the “issue [was] whether or not and under what conditions will the plants be demolished.”

GM decided against the re-use of the buildings due to lack of insulation, an inefficient and out-of-date floor plan and an average monthly utility cost of $1.5 million.

The plan calls for GM to cover the 168-acre site with vegetation by seeding or sodding. GM will remove all slabs, footings, parking lots and pathways. Any ground cavities will be filled with sand, gravel and/or dirt. The property will also meet environmental requirements for storm water runoff.

GM will also post a bond of $5 million to insure that the project is completed on time.

Originally, GM proposed leaving a portion of the property covered in crushed concrete, which GM claims will be a valuable raw material when the property is redeveloped. GM spokesman Tom Jeffers said that crushed concrete “is necessary to pour the foundation for roads or buildings. Leaving the concrete would make it easier to access when the property is being redeveloped.”

The township planning commission said that members of the public and township officials were worried about the effects the concrete ground cover would have on the environment.

Jeffers said that GM will comply with the township’s request, but it would be easier to sell the property if the material was easy to access. “It will cost more to redevelop the land if you put dirt and grass over the material that [developers] want.”

The plan calls for the demolition of the site to be completed by August 31, 2010. GM expects the majority of the demolition to take about 20 months. GM and the township have no future plans for the site. GM plans to market the property to developers after demolition is completed.

Members of the township are hoping that the property will be used and not stay vacant. Brinkley said he hopes the property will be put to use economically. “We want to get something [that] is a resource to the community,” said Brinkley. “Some economic development as opposed to [about] 150 acres of open space.”

Township Supervisor John Daher said he would “like to see a mixed use of the property.” Daher said that a combination of residential, retail, medical, senior housing and office complex would be ideal to the community. Daher said he is also hoping that the property will develop into a walking community, with parks and biking paths. “These things are necessary for a community in the twenty-first century.”

Lansing Township Officer Don Freels

After working with the Williamston Police Department as a field-training officer, Officer Don Freels joined the Lansing Township Police department. Freels has worked as a police officer in the greater Lansing area for 18 years, the last 4 months at the Lansing Township police department.

Freels became an officer because he enjoyed being active. As a student at Michigan State, Freels first studied computer science, but he was worried the jobs he’d get after graduating would not be physically active enough for him, so he changed his major to criminal justice.

“It didn’t seem active enough,” said Freels, “so I looked for something else, and this is it. It continually presents mental as well as physical challenges.”

Freels worked for Williamston as the field-training officer, where he stressed the importance of officer safety, communication and observation. Freels said he trained about 30 certified officers while at Williamston.

Now at Lansing Township, Freels is the firearm range instructor. Freels said he decided to work for the township because he was interested in a new challenge. Many police officers in the greater Lansing area start their career working part time at smaller departments like Williamston. After a few years, they find full time work at larger departments around the city. Freels joins four other police officers that moved from Williamston to Lansing Township.

The most important skill for a police officer is his observation skills, according to Freels. He said that officers “can’t observe like a citizen anymore.”

“You can’t drive down the road looking down the road because you’re not going to catch anyone doing anything if you’re just looking down the road,” said Freels. “Observation is an active skill that takes self training and discipline to be able to do it the best you can.”

So Freels practices active observation. When driving, he constantly looks between houses and down alleys, looking for suspicious activity. When he patrols a community, he keeps track of the garage doors that are closed in case someone attempts a burglary. While driving past buildings, he flashes a light at the windows; if there is no reflection, then he knows someone smashed a window.

Freels also teaches active observation to his fellow officers. Officer Matt Birr trained under Freels while working in Williamston and now works at Lansing Township Police Department. Birr said Freels taught him “when-then” mindset. Unlike “what-if” thinking, where an officer would assume possible scenarios, in the “when-then”mindset, Birr tries to approach every case expecting any possible scenario. Birr said that when he and Freels worked together, they listened to the radio for calls to other officers, and would discuss how they would handle the case if it were their assignment.

“There’s not much that I do that he hasn’t taught me,” Birr said. “He’ll see something you might have overlooked.”

Officer Michael Sykes also trained with Freels when he worked at Williamston. Sykes said that Freels taught him to think outside the book. “He teaches you to slow things down,” said Sykes, “look for things out of ordinary.”

Freels stresses the importance of safety for his fellow officers, which ranges from knowing how to approach an armed opponent to where to park when pulling a car over for a speeding ticket.

“You have to know what you are doing,” said Freels, “before dealing with it.”

Freels also feels that officer safety relies on the ability to communicate with one’s coworkers. Birr said Freels reminded his partners to talk about anything suspicious they notice in order to act effectively.

Although he no longer holds the official title, Township Police Chief Kay Hoffman said that his ability as a field-training officer would be put to good use. “We have a really good group of officers who are very bright, who work hard and want to do everything the right way for the right reasons.”

Sykes said he is excited to work with his old training officer. He said he feels more comfortable working with previous partners he trusts. Birr also appreciates working with his old training officer because of how much experience he brings to the department.

“He’s always thinking one step ahead,” said Sykes.