Community Provides Feedback on Facilities Study

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Audience member Jenny Sportel in the center, commented on the facilities study. Seated on her left is Tracey Branch and Doug Ryskamp on the right.

By Travis Smola

After presenting their findings to the public at the two April meetings, the Schoolcraft school board and facilities advisory committee immediately began looking for feedback from the people in attendance.

Surveys put out by the board and committee showed many residents believe the elementary and middle schools are in good shape. But consultants said the results of the study have shown otherwise. That’s why the meeting was held – to show members of the public the exact conditions at the schools. “We as board members thought it was really important to bring the community along with us,” Trustee Jill Vandyken-Hunt said.

One of the biggest concerns immediately expressed concerned the middle school boiler issue and why maintenance has not been kept up on it. Board Secretary Jennifer Gottschalk said there isn’t enough money to address the issue. A new boiler will cost approximately $1 million.

She said the district spends approximately $500,000 a year on maintenance already and other money that they have on hand is often already slated for things like teacher salaries.

“We need to think about a long-term goal and band-aids are not fixing the long-term problems we have,” facilities committee member Wade Rutkoskie added.

Schoolcraft village Trustee John Stodola said he was struck by the age of the buildings and noted they weren’t really designed for the larger classes and technology of today. “A new boiler won’t fix that,” Stodola said. He said his opinion was to build new because he hopes his grandchildren will have children in the district one day.

Several parents in the audience with young children agreed and said the issues brought up were of major concern because they planned to be in the village for the long haul. One mother said she is willing to make some extra sacrifices to pay more for the good of the community.

Kelli Brussee, a kindergarten teacher at the elementary school, spoke about handicap accessibility within the elementary and middle schools. “I have a student in a wheelchair. It’s hard,” Brussee said.

Gottschalk addressed a question about a possible location of new buildings, noting the district owns a piece of land near the high school that might be suitable.

More than one audience member expressed concern that school-of-choice parents aren’t paying taxes that would cover any project. The board acknowledged this is true, but elementary principal Matt Webster said those students bring along federal and state funds that go into programming.

“It’s not that they’re walking in free of charge and we’re just burdened with this debt to educate them.”

Before the meeting ended, those in the audience were handed community support surveys asking what specific projects they would support and what they would not. The survey also asked their level of support for the formation of a committee to develop a bond issue proposal.

A bond issue isn’t the only possible option. Another is a sinking fund. But trustees noted a sinking fund would probably be used to address existing options. A bond issue would be needed for new buildings.

The board continually emphasized there are no plans of yet, and one option is do nothing at all. They urged those in the audience to talk to neighbors, family and friends about the issue. A final report and committee determination will be made at the May board meeting.

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