Board Approves Long Term Facilities Planning Committee

By Travis Smola

There will be no easy solutions to many of the infrastructure issues faced by Schoolcraft Community Schools, it was determined at the May school board meeting.

This time, the Board was finally able to put a dollar amount on the areas of need identified by the study. In all, it identified $34 million of possible improvements that can be done to the schools. The biggest areas of need were the elementary and middle school which would account for $12 million apiece.

“To me the takeaway is this is a major challenge the community has,” Walther said.

“There was some sticker shock at first where we asked, ‘Is this reality?’ This is reality.”

But the board isn’t talking bonds or other sources of funding yet. Instead, Walther brought forward the facilities planning committee’s recommendation to now form a long-term planning committee to come up with a long-term facility plan. Walther said the plan would have to be fiscally responsible while also addressing near and long-term facility needs.

While the board doesn’t want to rush the issue, there are problems that could complicate a conservative approach. The biggest of those is the topic of the aging middle school boiler which came up again in the discussions. The boiler failed once this winter and Walther asked if it made sense to invest in a new boiler when the buildings themselves may be nearing the end of life.

Trustee Michael Rochholz agreed. “While you’re looking long-term, you’re really looking short-term too,” he said. Treasurer Kathy Mastenbrook said she likes the idea of a long-term plan from a financial perspective, but wants to see some direction behind it. But she also acknowledged the cost estimates might be even higher two years down the road.

“Construction costs are not going to decrease,” Mastenbrook said. “We’re already behind the eight ball.”

Walther and trustee Jill Vandyken-Hunt said early community feedback showed more support for replacement of the middle and elementary schools than remodeling.

C2AE architect and project manager Steve Jurczuk said the middle school and elementary sites are too small no matter what is ultimately done. He said the committee might want to look at the question of removing one of the buildings as a solution.

“We want to bring the community through a process where they truly are part of it so it won’t fail,” Walther said.

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