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District seeks $80 million to build new fifth/sixth grade building

No tax increase required, extends existing debt

With continued enrollment growth projected, the district is asking voters to consider an $80 million bond proposal Tuesday, May 5  to fund construction of a new building for fifth and sixth graders. The request would not require a tax increase, however. 

Elementary school buildings — Brown, Marshall and Countryside, which house kindergarten through fourth graders, and Nickels Intermediate School, which houses fifth and sixth graders — are all reaching enrollment capacity. If approved, the bond would fund construction of a new $25 million building for fifth and sixth graders (an intermediate school), and would renovate Nickels into a fourth elementary building for kindergarten through fourth graders. 

“The primary focus of the bond is for getting at capacity in the buildings but to also set the district up for future growth,”  said Superintendent Kevin Macina. “By adding a new intermediate building and with the addition of a K-4 building it allows for current relief in the buildings but also allows for future growth. WIth the growth studies that Byron Center has done, it creates the ability to plan for the potential of more students moving into the district”.

In the past 11 years, enrollment has burgeoned by more than 1,000 students to 4,256 students this school year, according to district growth and capacity information.

The bond would not require an increase to the current 7-mill levy, but would extend existing debt, he said.

“Not increasing taxes is such an important part of this bond proposal,” Macina said. “It once again confirms that BCPS is being a good steward to our community by only asking for what is really needed for our schools. We know that we have a capacity issue, but our proposal is conserative to get at our most important needs.

“It is very important that we can continue to have the programming that makes Byron Center successful, but also doing that without adding a financial burden to the residents.”

The district hosted three community forums to gather input before finalizing the bond scope and budget, which the Board of Education did Nov. 25.

Closely Follows Last Bond

The bond request comes just three years after the district’s $68.5 million bond passed in 2017, which funded a $40 million, 70,000-square-foot, two-story addition to the high school, 8500 Burlingame Ave. SW. The space adds capacity for more than 1,600 students. The school currently enrolls 1,200. Interior renovations continue, with the entire project due to be done by August 2020. Work to add space to the Early Childhood Center, another 2017 bond project, will also l be completed by December of 2020.

“The impetus for another bond in 2020 is due to two significant factors,” Macina said. “One is the rapid growth in Byron Center. We have grown at a quicker rate than was projected, which has a direct impact on the space that is available district wide. The second, is that the State of Michigan only allows for a school district to plan out so far in advance. This means that districts can only plan and build for what is happening currently in their district. With the increased growth it confirms to the state that there is a specific need for additional capacity.”

The district is working on purchasing land for the new 5-6 building. Renovation of Nickels into a K-4 building will include resizing classrooms for early elementary, adding a playground for younger students, and outfitting the school to accommodate four grade levels plus kindergarten, said Chief Financial Officer Tamara Powers.

The district also plans to purchase land for new 5-6 building.

Other bond projects would include:

  • Devices for the one-to-one technology program
  • New buses
  • Parking lot renovations and upgrades districtwide
  • Food service equipment
  • Added parking spaces at Marshall Elementary School
  • Increased space in the West Middle School cafeteria
  • Expanded bays at the bus garage
  • Remodeling in the Van Singel Fine Arts Center
  • Administration building improvements
  • Technology infrastructure upgrades

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She 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, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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