By Sue Moore
The Schoolcraft schools’ Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) sponsored two community forums to gather public input and answer questions about the upcoming bond proposal on the August 5, ballot.
The turnout at both meetings was sparse but there was a spirited question and answer session at each one. Members of the CAC, school board and staff answered all questions. Below is a condensed version of the Q & A with the answers paraphrased that came from the school personnel and school board members.
Q – What are the anticipated operational costs for the new buildings?
A – There will be energy efficiencies. Lighting changes have a three to five year payback. The single pane windows in the upper elementary building will be replaced for a cost savings there.
Q – If the recommendation from Tower-Pinkster was over $20 million, why are you asking for $14.4 million instead? What’s been left off?
A – At $14.4 million, we could keep the millage where it is now and not ask for an increase. We had to make hard decisions about what to leave out. There is a savings by getting rid of the older buildings. We had to ask ourselves if the expense was a want or a need.
Q – Are we losing students and, therefore, overbuilding?
A – We have lost about 100 students over the last six to seven years. Fortunately, 18 percent of our students are here through “schools of choice.” Families want to bring their children here.
Q – With that information in the equation, should there be a reduction in classrooms?
A – There is because of the closing of the current middle school.
Q – What will be done with the early elementary building if it is closed down? Will it be an empty hole?
A – We don’t know but there are several options, such as condos, senior day care center, possible county or KRESA usage, or senior housing facility.
Q – How will you separate middle school students from the high school?
A – They will eat lunch at different times. They will have a separate gym and locker rooms.
Q – Mixing middle school kids with high school students is a big concern.
A – They ride the bus together now. Fifth and sixth grades will be on one level of the proposed building and seventh and eighth on another level.
Q – The high school weight room is too small. It’s a hazard, a can of worms. We don’t have a wrestling room for kids to practice in. The worry is that this condition will persist for the next 20 years because it wasn’t funded.
A – At the end of the day, the school system needs to live within its means. There just wasn’t enough money or support from members of the CAC for this additional expenditure. Perhaps the Boosters Club will be able to help out in the future.
Q – The concession stand remodeling expense has nothing to do with the education of our students. Why was that included?
A – The current design is under capacity for bathrooms. The ticket booth and concession area is congested and limits our ability to serve our fans and guests. Our district has a long tradition of excellence in athletics and the CAC along with the school board believed this should be a priority.
Q – Why is the current Ken Krum Center being left open?
A – It has been self-sustaining and customary for people to pay rent for it. The plan is to let it live its life and then close it. The new Ken Krum Center in the middle school will need to cover its costs. It will be a facility that will enrich the community with rooms for meetings, recreation, and community gatherings.
Q – I’m suspicious of flat roofs. It looks like this proposed new middle school has a flat roof.
A – It’s a slightly pitched roof, minimally sloped to prevent standing water problems.
Q – With technology changing so rapidly, how will what you buy last for 20 years?
A – The big goal is to put aside enough in the budget each year so that the technology purchases will turn over about every four years. The enhancement millage has been earmarked for this purpose. We do have a sustainability plan in place for technology upgrades.
Q – Have you looked at a separate middle school?
A – No, because of the efficiencies of a shared staff and spaces with the middle school addition to the high school. It will allow for quicker transition of teachers who work in both buildings now. With attrition, we project reducing one position in food service and perhaps in other places eventually. Cleaning just two buildings will also keep costs down since there will be a loss of 60,000 square feet of area to clean.
Q – Why build another big gym for just five total physical education classes now?
A – The current gym is utilized all day and night right now. We don’t have enough capacity to take care of all the team sports for practice and get them home at a reasonable hour at night.
Q – It’s hard to visualize the style of the proposed building which is two stories, with the one story high school?
A – The floor plan labeled in the drawing is conceptual. The next step is a programming session with the teachers for their feedback. Then, schematics will be drawn up. These will be shared with the public. There is lots of work to be done yet and lots of opportunity for community input.
Q – When would construction start if this bond issue is passed? What would you do about asbestos?
A – Nothing would be touched without careful removal of any hazardous materials. An aggressive schedule would be to break ground in March with a goal to occupy the middle school in the fall of 2015. The elementary work would be done after school is out. The last piece would be the Ken Krum Center and the Roy Davis football field.