Students and staff re-dedicate Niles Cedar Lane building

NILES —Students at Niles Cedar Lane joined administrators Wednesday afternoon in celebrating the re-dedication of their newly renovated school at
1 Tyler St.

Formerly the Oak Manor Sixth Grade Center, bond construction approved in the spring of 2015 funded a number of upgrades, including a brand-new fire alarm system, as well as a new HVAC system which will help to provide heating and air-conditioning, and circulate fresh air. Classrooms were also equipped with new furniture and technology.

In addition to offering the alternative education program for Niles Cedar Lane students, the building will also house students from the W-A-Y program and Niles Community Schools District administration.

As the rain poured outside, students, staff and teachers gathered to commemorate the occasion with a ceremony. Several school leaders and students addressed a crowd of about 50.

Closing out the ceremony, student Shayla Reedus, a senior, cut through a ceremonial red ribbon.

For Niles Cedar Lane students, the move meant more than getting shiny new classrooms. It also meant the opportunity to move closer to their Niles community and have school amenities like a gym, locker and kitchen area.

The former Cedar Lane building, which was put up for sale, is located at 2301 Niles Buchanan Road.

Senior Dominic Gentry described how the Cedar Lane teachers had inspired him to turn his habits of skipping class and poor grades around. Now, on top of a positive environment, students will have a building that also supports their efforts, he said.

“I would like to thank the whole Niles community for giving us a facility we can be comfortable in and have a chance of the real school experience, instead of us being out in portables and having to walk through the horrible weather we have in Michigan,” Gentry said. “[Now] we can be inside and get from class to class and work and do everything we have to do to succeed.”

Dana Daniels, the Niles Community Schools Board of Education president, said he apologized that construction across the district delayed Cedar Lane students from moving in for about a year. He said the board made the decision to temporarily house 402 Eastside Connections students at the location so that construction on Eastside could be finished in a more timely and cost-effective manner.

With the entirety of upgrades at Niles Cedar Lane costing about $2.5 million, Daniels said he hoped this emphasized how invested the community of Niles is in students’ success.

“You add a lot of value to Niles Community Schools,” Daniels said. “Every year, when I go to your graduation of Cedar Lane Adult Education and W-A-Y, you are the most admired, because you have the most obstacles.”

Principal John Fonash said he was proud of the ownership that students had demonstrated in their short time in the building so far. Last week, students spent time outside helping to transform the building with the help of Lowe’s volunteers through the Hero program. Students and volunteers added potted plants, picnic tables and planter edging, as well as installed new blinds. Funds from the program also covered the cost of locks for lockers.

“This is an exciting time for Niles Cedar Lane as we start a whole new chapter in the life of our school,” Fonash said. “We finally have a facility that reflects the worth and dedication of our students and staff.”

Fonash said the move will put students closer to opportunities like dual-enrollment, which is offered at the Niles Lake Michigan College campus and CTE options at Niles High School.

Michael Lindley, a former Niles Community Schools District superintendent, also addressed the crowd. He said the building was last dedicated in the 1950s and now the building was getting another new lease on life through Wednesday’s dedication 68 years later.

“Many generations of students have gone through here and gone on to great success and we expect that of you as well,” Lindley said. “We are confident that you are going to go on to great, wonderful things.”

Superintendent Dan Applegate said he could not wait to see what students would achieve at their new location.

“You pulled this together,” Applegate said. “This is a great dedication. You guys deserve this 100 percent. I hope you see the pride in yourselves.”

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