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Midland, MI: Groundbreaking at school for "severely emotionally impaired"

Dec 6, 2023, Midland (MI) Daily Times: Midland County ESA breaks ground on improvements at Sugnet School

With shovels in hand, the Midland County Educational Service Agency broke ground for a revitalization of Sugnet School on Tuesday, Dec. 5.

The project will first build additional classrooms for K-12 students who are severely emotionally impaired, which will take a year. This will allow additional space for students to take a break if they feel overwhelmed. Next, it will also revitalize classrooms on the first floor to be more inviting.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, MCESA Superintendent John Searles thanked supporters and said the new space would provide "a better slice of equity for all kids.” …

The project was five years in the making, said Searles. Three Rivers Corporation began the first comprehensive needs assessment and helped determine what was most needed.

Funding for the project will come from a bond passed in August 2022. It was the first time the MCESA ever pursued the passage of a bond, Searles said.

“Today is a point along this journey,” he said. “We have been thinking about and working towards equity for all kids, and we had this dream that all kids would have access to high-quality spaces and feel the love of the community wrapped around them.”

For example, he said the addition to Sugnet will include rooms with durable walls and windows in case a student acts out aggressively, he said. This will prevent damage to the rooms as well as keeping students safe.

In assessing the needs, WTA Architects Project Manager Jordan Johnston had a “good back and forth” conversation with teachers and staff over the course of several months. …

“(We were) finding these ways of how (we can) make the students and the staff have an easier time, and a more appropriate way (for the staff) to do what they do best, which is helping students in the community,” he said.

ESA employee Melinda Samarco works with different kids with special needs “across the board,” and she said they sometimes don’t have adequate space.

“We don’t have the updated facilities to help them,” she said. “Right now, things are cramped.”

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