Fruitport school district seeks 3.9-mill bond proposal

Krystle Wagner • Oct 24, 2016 at 2:00 PM

FRUITPORT — When voters in the Fruitport Community Schools district cast their ballots in the Nov. 8 election, they will decide on a 3.9-mill bond proposal.

The bond would generate a little more than $51 million, which would go toward building a two-story high school structure to replace the 1950s portion of the existing high school, replace buses that are 20 years old, and provide funding to address high-priority items outlined in the district’s facility assessment.

If approved, the owner of a home valued at $100,000 would pay an additional $195 a year.

A new high school building

Through the bond, the new two-story high school building would be constructed behind the current building.

The new structure would feature a Robotics/S.T.E.M./wood shop area, media center, art room, science rooms and labs, classrooms, kitchen, cafeteria, locker rooms, and an auditorium.

It would also connect to the 1998 additions.

Once it’s completed, the existing building would be demolished to make room for parking and traffic. The portable buildings would be removed, and the tennis courts would be moved to the area behind the middle school.

The high school building is slated to cost a little more than $48.6 million.

Although the building isn’t the oldest in the district, it’s the first building being addressed because the facilities committee decided it’s the district’s “flagship” and gets the most community use, said Superintendent Bob Szymoniak.

Szymoniak said the district is poised for commercial and residential growth, and having a new state-of-the-art high school would speak to people looking to land businesses and residences because it shows the community’s support.

“The main thing new facilities will do is give them learning spaces that will help prepare them for the workforce,” he said.

Szymoniak said two West Michigan districts — Muskegon and North Muskegon — have high schools older than Fruitport.

If approved, the next 14 months would consist of a design phase, and the project would break ground in spring 2018. Construction would be ongoing during the school year.

Staff and students would transition into the new building during the 2019-20 school year. Szymoniak said they anticipate the first graduating class out of the new building would be either the current eighth-grade or ninth-grade class.

How were the plans determined?

In November 2013, a group of community members, parents and staff began a process of analyzing and touring each of the district’s buildings.

Fruitport resident J.B. Meeuwenberg, who was on the facilities committee and is a co-chairperson for the Yes! For Fruitport’s Future committee, said the experience taught him about school funding and how much it costs to replace items such as boilers and their life expectancy rates.

An architect looked at the district’s facilities and determined what the needs would be for the next 10-15 years and created a master plan. The group found that issues needing to be addressed would exceed what the district could afford.

After going through the different buildings, Meeuwenberg, whose son is in kindergarten, said it was “obvious” that something needed to be done to address the facilities.

Although the buildings have received “phenomenal upkeep,” it’s the aging infrastructure that needs to be addressed, Szymoniak said.

Future bond proposals

The November bond proposal is part of a multi-phase plan.

About every 10 years, bond proposals would be brought before the community that would extend the life of the 3.9 mills, if approved. The funds would be used to help address the aging facilities and infrastructure throughout the district.

Fruitport district voters previously approved bond proposals in 1997, 2003 and 2010. Szymoniak said the 3 mills of those bond debts are projected to be paid off in 2028.

Although the order of the buildings to be address could change, Edgewood Elementary School is slated to be addressed next. The building would be 74 years old by the time it’s addressed in 2028.

Beach Elementary School would be 100 years old by the time it’s addressed in 2038, and Shettler Elementary School would be 84 years old when it receives upgrades in 2048. Fruitport Middle School would be 89 years old by the time it’s addressed.

As a parent and community member, Meeuwenberg said he believes it’s a well-thought-out plan to address all of the buildings. He said he supports the proposal because it’s a proactive approach to not only improving the district but also the community.

“It’s the most fiscally responsible way to be good stewards of these community facilities,” Szymoniak said.

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