By Travis Smola
Schoolcraft Schools’ facilities planning committee is still facing challenges on how to address the district’s aging elementary and middle school buildings.
The committee has narrowed its focus to a bond proposal of approximately $39.9 million to finance construction of a new pre-K-6th grade building and add a dedicated addition to the high school for 7th and 8th graders.
The committee earlier decided not to go forward with a bond issue on the May ballot after an Epic-MRA phone survey showed there likely wasn’t enough support for the issue to pass. In addition to spreading the word about the issue to the community via flyers, Board President Jennifer Gottschalk wants to do a direct survey of parents to get a better picture of how people feel about the issue.
“In our phone survey data, we realized that 70% of the people who responded were people that didn’t have kids in the district,” she said.
The committee announced plans to further spread the word during parent-teacher conferences. Gottschalk said the committee want to do a second Epic-MRA survey after spring break.
High School Principal Ric Seager presented testing data to the board from the Michigan School Index that shows the district is performing especially well in Kalamazoo County.
The Michigan School Index system looks at data from several tests including NWEA, MSTEP, SAT and PSATs and gives schools a value ranging from 0-100 based on how they meet state targets in those tests. Seager said a perfect score of 100 means a school is meeting all its target test scores all the time. The index measures school performance in areas such as student growth, proficiency, graduation rate, assessment participation and student success.
In a summary of elementary schools from Kalamazoo and surrounding counties, Schoolcraft came in eighth out of the 45 schools on the list with a score of 91.36. The average score in Kalamazoo County was 70.52. The middle school was the top-ranked one in Kalamazoo County for the second year in a row with a score of 92.40 in 2018. Other schools in the area cited averaged 63.59.
“We are on top of the heap again for the second year in a row. Kudos to the staff and leadership in that building for making that happen,” Seager said. “You know, they don’t get there without a solid foundation.”
The high school also finished in first place in the county for the second year in a row, tallying a 97.32. The next two closest schools were Portage and Vicksburg with scores of 94.99 and 93.15 respectively. The average score for a high school in Kalamazoo County was 72.75.
“Our scores are up again, and we stretched our lead on the schools around us,” Seager said, although he noted there are many quality schools in the area and that is difficult for a smaller school like Schoolcraft to compete with them.
“They’re nipping at our heels all the time,” Seager said. “We preach that all the time in the building that we want to stay here. It’s not good enough just to get here.”
In other business, after being a club sport since 2006, the board unanimously approved making bowling a full varsity sport. Both the board and Superintendent Rusty Stitt agreed it was an easy decision because the team has been highly successful, fielding several individual regional champions and state finishers and several bowlers who have gotten scholarships to bowl in college.