By Sue Moore
Schoolcraft’s $39.9-million school bond issue passed in its second try March 10 by a vote of 1,171 to 1,076. At the watch party for volunteers supporting the effort in Board President Jen Gottschalk’s barn, they were in the dark about the outcome until after midnight; the county clerk’s web site died that night. “We didn’t know for sure until after midnight the next day,” Gottschalk said.
“I don’t want to take any of the credit for the bond issue passing this time around,” she added. “The people who knocked on doors every weekend made the difference. It took a whole entire group of parents and supporters. I was just thankful it was over as it was so stressful for me. I wondered what will we have to do next if it doesn’t pass? It was nerve-wracking the whole time and now I’m totally relieved.”
“Everything was going great after Tuesday’s election and then Friday, all of a sudden, we knew we had to close school,” she said. “What do we need to do to keep the kids engaged and how to help those students teetering on the edge? Well, the Governor decided a lot of things for us. We didn’t have school scheduled on that Friday after exams. First thing we needed to do was get the kids in to empty their lockers. The teachers just came in and got the work done to give out assignment packets.”
“My daughter Payton is only nine and we work on her lessons every day but she hits a wall sometimes and there isn’t much I can do to comfort her. Our teachers have been told by the State that they can’t deliver any new content because so it’s all stuff they have been over before. Nothing new with individual education plans, especially for special education students. Our goal now is to just keep kids where they are at and not have them lose knowledge or go backward. English, language arts and math are the focus in the packets of stuff sent home.
“Will seniors be able to graduate? No guidance from the Legislature which is out of session for two weeks. So many unknowns. We wish we had better answers,” Gottschalk said. “My niece, a senior with no prom or maybe no graduation, is devastated. She is frustrated because this is her whole world. The effects and ramifications of the virus will last a long time. Even if we could come back to school, the buildings are not conducive to summer education.”
“We had our first meeting with the architects trying to establish a timeline for everything and put contracts in place. Our plan envisioned being in the buildings by 2022 and now with the virus we can’t even get all the people together in one room that need to be together,” she lamented. “We are starting to see shortages in heating systems, valves, pumping materials, while trying to iron out the master schedule to finalize contracts. Triangle Associates will be our construction managers. TMP is the architect out of Kalamazoo.”
“We are trying to figure out how we are going to build this when none of us can get in a room. Jill VanDyken, Wade Rutkoski and I will form the board’s steering committee along with the three principals and the superintendent. “Until we get a solid plan with the bond, I’m not going to put much out. Do people want to be involved? They can contact me to be a part of the work on the design of the building and the entire project. We want the public to be involved and come to the meetings.
“The new normal for board meetings will be totally different too. We are trying to figure out how we can conduct these while not getting together in person. Maybe there is some kind of electronic way. We’re not sure yet how it will function; we need to do it live to have comments,” she said.
“Three years ago, when I ran for the school board I just wanted to get involved when my daughter was in kindergarten. I felt called to do something as my dad had served on the school board years ago. It was my turn and all the people before me who have served. It was time to come in and do the hard work, especially the younger folks, to help make the tough decisions. I just want to help make it better for all the kids following my daughter. I’m excited to see what will happen and unfold even in uncertain times,” Gottschalk said.