SL Schools building plans considered

Marie Havenga • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:38 PM

More than 150 people, including parents and staff members, attended a recent master plan concepts meeting hosted by Spring Lake school district officials and representatives from the district's Bloomfield Hills-based architectural firm.

Superintendent Dennis Furton presented three proposals distilled from vision planning sessions held in March. Participants then broke into discussion groups to weigh pros and cons of each proposal.

Although potential plans include improvements to the high school, athletic fields, middle and intermediate schools, the crux of the discussion centered around the fate of Holmes and Jeffers – the district's elementary schools.

Highlights of the options:

*Concept A ($43 to $46 million): Participants appeared less than enthusiastic about this proposal, which includes remodeling and constructing small additions to Holmes and Jeffers.

Those who spoke said they considered it a “Band-Aid” approach and feared what surprises could lurk under the walls of the buildings, that were built more than half a century ago.

*Concept B ($61 to $66 million): Building two new elementary schools to replace Holmes and Jeffers was a popular option among community members and school staff.

A new Holmes would be built directly south of the middle school/intermediate school and the bus/maintenance facility would be relocated to the township site. A new football stadium, baseball, softball, soccer and practice fields would be developed north of the high school.

Pre-kindergarten classes would be accommodated at the new yet-to-be-determined Jeffers location.

*Concept C ($53 to $57 million): A new district-wide “super elementary” would be built at a yet-to-be-determined site, featuring two wings – one for pre-kindergarten through second grade and the other for third- and fourth-graders.

The students would share a gymnasium and cafeteria, but with separate dining and recreation times.

Many participants loved the idea of lower operating costs with one elementary building versus two, but some feared a larger school may lead to lower test scores and more bullying.

The stadium would remain in its current location under this plan but the bus/maintenance facility would be relocated to 144th Avenue.

Furton said although the cost estimates vary, the cost to taxpayers would be the same per year no matter which option is chosen – 0.569 mills.

That equates to $34 for the owner of a $120,000 home, $57 for a $200,000 home and $85 for a $300,000 home.

The only difference would come in duration of payments. Furton said the most expensive option would be levied for 30 years while the other two plans would be paid in full sometime prior to that.

The superintendent said he is not advocating for any plan over another, but that the cost of ownership would be lower with one elementary building.

Participant Dawn Briegel said she favors a combined elementary school.

“Fixing two elementary schools is not an option,” the Spring Lake Township resident said. “I think there were a lot of good ideas and people are really looking out for what's best for the kids. It will be interesting to see what they come up with.”

Nunica resident Courtney Stahl prefers building two new elementary schools.

“I think it keeps a small community feeling,” Stahl said. “I feel it's going to be best for the students and the staff. A big building scares me. I don't see it as being what's best for the kids.”

Furton said staff will compile the advantages and disadvantages laid out by the participants and discuss them at the next board meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, at the Spring Lake Middle School.

He expects the board to set a course and vote on a bond campaign for the November election at its June 24 meeting.

Any building projects would be completed by fall, 2016, according to architect John Castellana.

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