By Travis Smola
The Schoolcraft Community Schools Facilities Study Committee has narrowed down its options on how to address the district’s aging elementary and middle schools.
The committee has been meeting and working with Christman Construction and architect C2AE for over a year to narrow the number of options for the buildings from eight to three.
Each would call for a bond issue.
Option A is building a new building, approximately 88,000 square feet, housing preschool through sixth grade building on property next to the high school. This option would also add a seventh and eighth grade wing and middle school gym at the existing high school. The cost of this project is estimated at $36-38 million.
Option B would be a $39-41 million 117,000 square foot building to house preschool through eighth grade.
If the district chooses to go with either of these new building options, the existing buildings will be demolished. Their sites will be returned to grass. The costs of demolition are figured into both of those estimates. After demolition the district could either keep or sell the land.
If the district chooses the higher cost, the committee estimates a millage increase of 3.5 mills, $3.50 per $1,000 taxable valuation. The current millage is around 4 mills and has been steadily declining since 2010. With the increase, the levy for a home with a market value of $100,000 and taxable valuation of $50,000 would increase about $175 a year.
The committee also included what it calls a “baseline option” for simple additions and remodels to the existing elementary and middle school buildings. This option is the cheapest, coming in at a cost of $32-34 million. The baseline would just address the mechanical, electrical and handicap accessibility issues of the buildings.
“That’s a lot of money just to fix things,” School Board Secretary Jennifer Gottschalk said.
Brian Crissman of Christman construction agreed, saying the baseline didn’t even address issues like classroom size. “The problem with the renovations is it doesn’t solve all the problems,” Crissman said. “You still have a 50-year-old and 60-year-old building.”
At the school board’s regular meeting the following week, Gottschalk said the study committee would not support the baseline option at all because of the issues it would leave unaddressed. The baseline was included to show how new facilities could be provided for slightly more money.
A telephone survey will be conducted in November to further gain insight into what the community will support. The plan is to consider placing a bond issue on the May ballot, although Gottschalk said it might be put it off until August or November 2019.
“We’re not going to rush,” she said. “If we don’t get it right this first time, we’re toast.”