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No-increase bond proposal would create learning center, expand buildings

Growth is the driving factor behind Thornapple Kellogg’s community bond on the ballot this November.

The district’s enrollment grew by 71 students this year, with 40 of those students at McFall Elementary, a K-1 building that is already over capacity, according to Superintendent Rob Blitchok. The district’s preschool is also facing a waiting list of students, he said.

In the past five years, the district has grown by approximately 200 students. Current enrollment projections indicate the district’s student population could reach 3,348 in the next five years, according to the district.

Superintendent Rob Blitchok emphasized the need for updates to address growth, infrastructure and the learning environment in the bond proposal

Where is this growth coming from?

“Thornapple Kellogg schools is an attractive district with excellent teachers who care about their students,” Blitchok said. “We offer outstanding opportunities for students.” He also noted the district location offers much to families, “with an abundance of recreational opportunities in a rural setting, but close to amenities of larger cities.”

In addition to growth, the bond also addresses aging infrastructure and the need for new learning opportunities and environments. These form the three categories of improvements the bond proposal would fund.

If the $42.8-million proposal passes, the bond would extend the current bond further into the future, but not raise the current bill to taxpayers.

Under the bond, the high school would receive several upgrades and an expanded cafeteria

Investing in the Future

In the growth category, $15.37 million is planned to construct a new learning center, add elementary classrooms and expand some cafeterias.

The construction of a new learning center would house the three and four-year-old preschool programs, Great Start Readiness Preschool, Early Childhood Special Education and child care.

“The preschool building itself is small and outdated,” Blitchok said. “We can better serve the needs of our preschool families and future TK students by building a new, modern preschool center designed specifically to accommodate today’s needs.”

In infrastructure, the proposal would set aside $14.82 million for needs including new roofs, windows, flooring, new paving and more efficient parking lot designs.

The third category, enhanced learning environments, covers items like air conditioning, pool upgrades, tennis courts. The bond would also include the addition of art and music rooms at McFall Elementary, as well as synthetic turf replacement. These items would total $12.64 million.

“Enhanced learning environments add to the quality of life within our district,” Blitchok said. “Adding air conditioning, for example, provides a comfortable setting for optimal learning. Currently, the middle school is the only building with a temperature control system. If the bond passes, all learning environments in the district would be air conditioned.

“With the earlier starts to the school years, we have seen many extremely hot days in August, September and even October, and then again in the spring before school gets out,” he said. “Upgrading the pool adds an enhanced learning opportunity for students. In a district filled with lakes, ponds and streams, it is important that students have at least some basic understanding of water safety.”

The additional classroom spaces for art and music will provide opportunities for young students to experience those areas of learning, he said. 

Looking Ahead

If the bond passes in November, the district’s first priority will be the additional classrooms at the elementary buildings with construction starting next spring. It will take about six years for all the projects to be completed, Blitchok said.

“We will continue to communicate about what’s being done, timetables for projects and costs for all projects,” he said. “We are extremely grateful to the TK community for their continued support of our school district. We look forward to continued growth and continued strong school (and) community relations.”

CONNECT

Bond information on the district website

The middle school is the only building with a temperature control system, but the bond would provide district-wide air conditioning
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Hannah Lentz
Hannah Lentz
A 2017 graduate of Grand Valley State University and a lifelong teacher’s kid, Hannah Lentz has worked as a journalist in and outside the Grand Rapids area for more than five years. After serving as editor-in-chief at the GVSU student newspaper, Hannah interned at the Leelanau Enterprise where she learned a lot about community journalism. In addition to her work for School News Network, Hannah has worked as a freelance blogger in the furniture industry, focusing on design trends, and as a social media manager for World Medical Relief in Detroit.

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