Bond Improvements Mean Security for Students, Jobs for Workers

Lisa Linsley has seen thousands of students walk into Parkside Elementary School in her 23 years of teaching there. So she is glad to know they soon will be a little safer, now that construction crews are building a new security entrance.

Work has begun on new entry vestibules at Parkside and four other elementary schools, thanks to a $76.1 million bond issue approved by Rockford voters last year. Along with a new roof, the new entryway will help her better teach her second-graders, Linsley said.

Caleb Decker is ready for more than school as he walks by what will be the new entrance “It does just give you peace of mind that you can relax about the security of the building, and just concentrate on teaching the kids,” Linsley said, as workers toiled away on a recent morning. “That’s one less thing that you have to be concerned about.”

Jeremy Amshey feels good about the work, too. That’s not just because he is the Rockford project manager for Owen-Ames-Kimball, the general contractor heading up the bond’s capital improvements through 2018. He has a daughter at Meadow Ridge Elementary, and his wife, Kelly, is assistant principal at East Rockford Middle School.

“It’s very rewarding,” said Amshey, a 1998 Rockford graduate. “Especially because my kids are in the elementary schools, I feel a lot of responsibility.”

Most Work Goes to Local Firms

Besides shoring up security at all 13 school buildings and making improvements to technology and arts and athletic facilities, the bond is providing plenty of work to area companies like the Grand Rapids-based O.A.K. From roofers and plumbers to excavators and electricians, well over 90 percent of the work is being done by West Michigan firms, providing a “mini-stimulus” to the job market, said Mike Cuneo, assistant superintendent of finance. 

O.A.K. project manager Jeremy Amshey, right, oversees the work at Parkside along with project superintendent Chris Barnes

“These are residents in the area working for those firms, who now have work they might not otherwise have had,” Cuneo said, adding most firms hired additional people for the jobs.

Because of the area’s abundance of construction-related firms, most companies who bid are from West Michigan, he added. Other local contracted companies include Dykema Excavators, Nugent Builders and GMB Architecture and Engineering.

Managing all the construction is O.A.K., which was named Michigan Contractor of the Year by the American Subcontractors Association of Michigan. The state’s longest-standing commercial contractor is overseeing roughly 125 workers at all Rockford school district job sites, Amshey said.

Security work began over Spring Break on five elementary schools, including Valley View, Crestwood, Lakes and Belmont. Hammers were to begin pounding at all other schools on the first day of summer vacation, to have the work done by the start of school next fall. Parkside and Lakes are also getting new roofs, which Linsley said is badly needed. A leak during a recent heavy rain formed a puddle in the teachers’ lounge, she said, adding, “So we said we got to eat by the lake.”

Her classroom is right next to the construction, which can get a little loud at times. “One day, they were doing something where they were drilling kind of to a beat,” Linsley recalled with a laugh.

Parkside teachers commemorate the building project with a group photo

“I looked up and my kids are all bouncing their heads to the beat.”


District construction projects schedule



Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ As a reporter for The Press from 1985 to 2009, his beats included Grand Rapids Public Schools, local colleges and education issues. Honey served as editor of The Press’ award-winning Religion section for 15 years. His freelance articles have appeared in Christianity Today magazine, Religion News Service and the Aquinas College alumni magazine. Read Charles' full bio.


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