May 2 Bond Extension Would Expand High School, Improve Security

With the high school’s enrollment at capacity and growth projected at 2 percent a year, voters on Tuesday, May 2 will consider extending existing bond debt to fund an expansion.

The eight-year extension would result in no extra cost to taxpayers.

“We are out of room at the high school,” Superintendent Dan Takens said of the facility at 8500 Burlingame Ave. SW, which was built in 1998. As Principal Scott Joseph put it, “Every classroom is used all the time.”

About 1,100 students currently attend, but enrollment is projected to grow to 1,353 by 2020-21 because of housing development trends in Byron Township.

Extending the bond would provide $68.5 million for the district, $40 million of which would be spent on the high school. The plan is possible without an increase to taxpayers because of residential and commercial growth in the area, officials say. The district has also refinanced bond debt several times since 2005, saving over $13 million. The proposal would not increase the bond rate of 7 mills, but would extend the existing debt millage 14 additional years.

Making Room to Grow

Takens and administrators have gathered input from the community through a survey and meetings about ways to address needs in the burgeoning district, and decided on the expansion rather than a second high school or freshman campus. “By adding on to the high school, we will have plenty of room for next five years,” Takens said.

If approved, the two-story addition would house 13 classrooms and a new media center between the Van Singel Fine Arts Center and the main office, fronting 84th Street SW.

Other bond-funded improvements would include:

  • Reconfigured parking, adding about 120 spaces for students to the front of the school so all would come through the main entrance, improving safety and security. The existing parking lot east of the school would be used for marching band practice during the day.
  • A new hallway through the southwest corner of the academic area would improve congestion in the hallway, and classrooms would receive new paint and flooring, district officials say;
  • Reconfigured space and three new classrooms at the Byron Center Early Childhood Center, where there is a waiting list for preschool and Room to Bloom daycare;
  • Entrances at Marshall Elementary and Nickels Intermediate School would be secured so visitors walk directly into the office. Parking would also be reworked to create better traffic flow.

The high school currently has about 30 students per classroom in space meant for a maximum of 24 students
Other improvements funded by the bond would include new buses; technology including Chromebooks for K-8 students and MacBook Airs for 9-12; a multi-purpose turf field at West Middle; and new tennis courts at the high school to replace existing courts that would become parking.

The district approved a $23.6 million bond extension in 2011, which funded building improvements that included renovations and additions at Brown Elementary.


District Growth and Capacity Powerpoint

Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. Besides covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network, she writes freelance for the travel industry. Read Erin's full bio


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here