Separate bonds on ballot

Krystle Wagner • Jul 21, 2015 at 1:49 PM

The school board on Monday night approved a recommendation for two propositions that would address the district’s vast facility needs. The proposals would not be contingent on the passage of each other.

Since Spring Lake district voters defeated a nearly $60 million bond proposal in November 2013, a 33-member special committee has looked at options to address the school district’s needs, and weighed community feedback from a phone survey and recent input sessions. Spring Lake Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Furton said the proposals would address the “vast majority of needs” in the district — such as class sizes, access to technology and climate control.

Proposal 1: $49 million

Proposal 1 combines facility needs for district buildings, furniture replacements and technology enhancements. The district would also buy 10 new buses during a five-year period.

Holmes and Jeffers elementary schools would receive classroom additions; a multipurpose addition (for a gym, cafeteria, stage and kitchen); and site improvements such as a bus loop, parent drop-off, parking and playgrounds. Parts of the elementary schools would be demolished, but Furton said the work done to the buildings in 2007 would remain intact.

Although the physical sizes of classrooms would grow, Furton said the number of students per class would not increase.

The intermediate/middle school would receive a new secure front entrance, classroom renovations and media center renovation. Its roof, mechanical systems and lighting would be replaced. Furton said the building would feel “close to new.”

The intermediate/middle school would also receive a bus loop and repaved parking lot, and the portable buildings would be removed.

Spring Lake High School would receive minor improvements such as basketball backstops, bleachers, air conditioning, scoreboard and security doors, and improvements to the parking lot.

The bond would also include upgrading the technology infrastructure and telephone system, installing classroom multimedia systems, and replacing computer lab workstations and staff computers.

Furton said the bond would provide one phase of student devices. Then, the district would look at a Bring Your Own Device policy for students.

School board member Keith Frifeldt asked how the district would pay for the additional classrooms and space at the elementary schools. Furton explained that a voter-approved sinking fund would arrive several years down the road to help pay for additional upkeep on the buildings.

“It’s a good way to invest in real time,” he said.

Proposal 2: $4.47 million

A second proposal focused on athletics would keep the district's Grabinski Field in the village. The bond would expand its track to eight lanes, replace home and visitor bleachers and press box, build a team room, and upgrade the ticket booth.

The high school would receive two synthetic-turf fields for soccer and lacrosse. There would be new bleachers, announcer booth, lights, scoreboard, fencing and sidewalks. The existing practice fields would be updated, and there would also be additional event parking and restrooms at the tennis courts.

Moving forward

If voters approve one or both of the proposals, the district could enter the Michigan School Bond Loan Fund, which allows school districts to "smooth out" their debt over time.

In the coming months, the district plans to engage with the community and educate them about the proposals that will appear on the ballot in less than four months.

If voters approve one or both of the proposals, Furton said the design process would be under way by this fall, and projects at the intermediate/middle school and high school could begin as soon as the summer.

Furton said ground for the elementary school construction would begin in 2015, and everything would be finished by 2016.

Alternate proposal

For the past year, Joyce Verplank Hatton looked into an alternative proposal that she requested the committee and school board to consider — a third elementary school. On Monday night, she asked the school board again to consider it.

The village resident said her option would cost a little more than $19.1 million to build a school, with additional square feet for administration, and the cost of purchasing land between North Fruitport Road and 148th Avenue near Kelly Street.

Hatton said the school would accommodate current students and allow the district to expand its early education offerings. The school costs would be paid for through state per-pupil funding.

Hatton said traffic concerns could be addressed by cutting down the number of students at Holmes and Jeffers.

Furton said the committee discussed a third elementary school option, but decided against it because it would take about $300,000 to operate the school annually, without looking into more detailed costs. He said it would be “one financial challenge after another.”

Another resident, Bill Venhuizen, asked the school board to keep some of Hatton’s ideas in mind as they go through the design phase.

“I’d rather see money spent for new teachers rather than bricks and mortar,” he said.

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