Student safety, maintenance and district technology improvements would be funded by a $30.9 million bond issue that will be put before East Grand Rapids voters on May 6.
All are necessary enhancements and all are beyond what the district can afford in its operating budget, said Superintendent Sara Shubel. Safety and technology needs are more acute today than in previous years, she said, while maintaining the infrastructure in aging buildings is essential to preserving the community’s investment in its schools.
“We are really trying to put a focus on what we see as the needs of the district over the next six to eight years,” said Shubel. “We have spent quite a bit of time on this trying to make sure what we are requesting from the community are needs versus wants.”
The request includes three areas of focus: about $6 million for safety and security; $10 million in technology to be split into $5 million purchases in 2014 and 2019; and $16 million for facility efficiencies and improvements such as the replacement of aging boilers and roofs.
The sale of bonds is planned in two series: $17.4 million to be sold in June and the remaining $13.5 million in May, 2019.
Administrators are working to inform community members of the need for the funding for projects that go above and beyond what the district’s general operating budget can cover.
The levy would add 2.5 mills to the district tax levy, raising the assessment for the owner of a $300,000 home by $375 per year.
District voters last approved a bond request in 2006 for building improvements and in November 2007 for athletic facility improvements; both extended the existing levy. The last infusion of funds for technology came from the 2006 bond. Equipment purchased at that time has aged considerably, said Kevin Philipps, assistant superintendent for business.
“Some of the technology that was cutting edge at the time, like our classroom carts, are still very valuable but the guts of them are starting to wear out a little bit. It’s been seven years and technology has a five-to seven-year lifespan,” he said.
Safety and security improvements would include updated front entrances at every building except the middle school, which already has an entrance that forces visitors to walk directly into the office; new security cameras, signage and other equipment district wide. The Wealthy and Breton Downs elementary entrances would be moved to allow people to walk immediately into the school office.
“Our buildings were built in an era when safety was not the primary concern,” Shubel said. “It’s really about making sure our students and staff are safer.”
Technology upgrades would include classroom laptop and desktop computers, projectors and other equipment. Middle and High School students provide their own devices for the district Engage 1:1 technology program, and that would not change. Third- through fifth-grade classrooms could receive classroom carts, possibly with Chromebooks. Kindergarten through second grade classrooms may receive iPads. Infrastructure including routers and servers would also be upgraded.
“To be able to continue to provide a learning environment that involves technology to be used, you have to take care of infrastructure,” Shubel said.
Facility efficiencies and improvements would include renovation of school media centers into flex-lab style learning commons, boiler replacements at the high school and Wealthy and Breton Downs elementary schools, replacement of roofs district-wide over the course of an eight-year span, major mechanical replacements and LED lighting and motion sensors.
Community bond presentations are planned at Parent Teacher Organization meetings and the Superintendent Advisory Council. A community forum will be scheduled, and a web page with details will soon be available.