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Wyoming Bond Funds Mean Major High School Upgrade

GRPS Voters Also Approve Millage Request

Voters paved the the way Tuesday for major renovations and districtwide upgrades by decisively approving a $79.5 million bond. Work will begin as soon as summer break, beginning $40 million in investments planned at Wyoming High School, 1350 Prairie Parkway, over the next several years.

“I was very, very pleased with the outcome and the overwhelming support from the community,” said Superintendent Thomas Reeder. “We will be good stewards with the dollars and not only reshape the schools but also how they serve the community.”

Two Districts Win Big

Wyoming Public Schools
Requested: $79.5 million school improvement bond
For: High School addition and renovation, improvements to all facilities. technology, security upgrades, athletic facility improvements,
Voters said: Yes, 2,377 to 1,075

Grand Rapids Public Schools
Requested: Renewal of an 18-mill non-homestead property tax, which will raise about $30.1 million per year
For: Ongoing operations centered on teaching and learning
Voters said: Yes, 13,711 to 5,524

The bond, which does not increase the millage rate but extends the current levy of 5.65 mills for 22 years, will generate about $23.5 million for a first phase of improvements in 2018 and the remaining $56 million in 2022. All work should be completed in eight years, Reeder said.

By fall 2020, high school students will have a 30-classroom addition and schoolwide renovations including increased flexibility and open collaborative spaces outfitted to meet technology needs. Hallways will be widened, and windows and high ceilings will allow for more natural light. The bond will also fund renovations of all district facilities, the newest of which was built in the 1960s.

“It’s a good day!” said Wyoming High School Principal Nate Robrahn. “It’s nice to see that it was so overwhelming that the community was supporting our kids.”

Robrahn is envisioning possibilities as planning goes into greater detail. “Now the excitement starts,” he said. “There is a general excitement about this campus.”

Robrahn said student voice played a factor in support for the bond, with seniors who have already turned 18 stepping up to vote. Students learned about the bond in depth and talked to neighbors. “I probably had 50 kids vote,” he said.

About $40 million in improvements are planned at Wyoming High School

Grand Rapids Renews Millage

Voters in Grand Rapids also convincingly approved a renewal of the district’s state-authorized, 18-mill non-homestead tax on commercial and industrial properties and second homes. By a margin of 71 to 29 percent, voters renewed the millage, last approved in 2009, for 10 more years. The tax does not apply to primary homes.

The victory margin was the district’s largest in at least 20 years, with every district in the city approving the measure, said spokesman John Helmholdt. Approval of tax requests for The Rapid bus system and Grand Rapids Public Library, both of which serve students, are also “a win for GRPS,” he said.

Officials said the non-homestead millage is crucial to continue teaching and learning in the 16,676-student district.

“I just want to express my thanks and appreciation to the voters and taxpayers of Grand Rapids for their continued support,” said Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal. “The vote today was a vote for maintaining the stability, momentum, and success of the GRPS Transformation Plan. It was a vote for our kids and their future.”

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SNN article on Wyoming bond details

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Charles Honey
Charles Honey
Charles Honey is a freelance writer and former columnist for The Grand Rapids Press/ MLive.com. 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 or email Charles.

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