News Story

Court halts demolition of Roosevelt School

Sixth Circuit Court issues temporary restraining order to stop district from tearing down historic school building

A historic school building at the center of a dispute between the West Bloomfield School District and the local community got a temporary reprieve Friday when a circuit court judge issued a restraining order preventing the district from demolishing the building.

“The Court finds that Plaintiffs are entitled to an ex parte temporary restraining order,” Sixth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Phyllis McMillen wrote. “For the reasons set forth in the Amended Motion and supporting affidavits, the Court finds there is no adequate remedy at law and there is a real and imminent danger of irreparable injury in the absence of a restraining order.”

McMillen’s decision came in a case filed by a local community group, Heart of the Lakes Community Inc., seeking to stop West Bloomfield from destroying the school, which the district fears could fall into the hands of a competing school.

The abandoned school building has become a flashpoint over a convoluted debate on restrictive covenants in property deeds that seek to prevent retired school properties from being used by private or charter schools after public school districts sell them.

Although Michigan law prohibits school districts from including such language in property deeds, a bill sponsored by Rep. Noah Arbit, D-West Bloomfield, would change that. Part of the argument in favor of House Bill 5025 is a claim that without restrictive property language, public school districts would risk seeing their former buildings used by market competitors.

At Michigan House testimony in February, a member of the West Bloomfield School Board made this case explicitly.

“Roosevelt is a beautiful 104-year-old historic building that is facing demolition because we simply cannot afford to have it become a competing school,” said Carol Finkelstein. Those remarks drew wide criticism, and Finkelstein made efforts to rephrase them at a March 4 school board meeting. At that meeting, the board took a final vote to destroy the building later this month.

Finkelstein also pushed back at that meeting against what she described as a public perception that the school district’s process with Roosevelt School has not been transparent. But McMillen’s decision, which supports Heart of the Lakes’ claim that the school district repeatedly violated the Open Meetings Act, undercuts that claim.

McMillen has ordered the district to halt all work on the demolition and maintain the building in its current condition.

The school district has been given a date of March 27 to challenge the restraining order and head off a permanent injunction.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.