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Voters to decide May 5 on $67 million bond proposal

Request covers high school, middle school and ECC renovations

Zinser, Central and Alpine elementary schools got a lot of love in the $55.24 million bond passed by voters in 2016.  Now it’s time that the high school, middle school and Early Childhood Center get some as well, school district leaders say.

Modernized classrooms, including a new, premier STEM room in the high school, a renovated Performing Arts Center, new band and orchestra instruments, and upgraded technology are some highlights of a proposed $67 million bond on the ballot Tuesday, May 5.

Superintendent Jerry Hopkins said the bond proposal addresses the schools they weren’t able to renovate within the 2016 bond. Except for secure entrances, Hopkins said the Early Childhood Center, middle school and high school weren’t included in that $55.24 million bond approval.

Impact on Property Taxes
If approved by voters, the debt millage rate would increase by an estimated 0.26 mills over the current tax rate. For a $100,000 market value home, this equates to an estimated increase of $1.08 per month, or $13 per year.
Source: Kenowa Hills Public Schools

Community Information Meetings
• 6 p.m. March 18 at the Kenowa Hills Early Childhood Center gymnasium
• 6 p.m. March 19 at the Kenowa Hills Middle School gymnasium

“This proposal will address the district’s facility needs for at least the next decade, ensuring revenue from the state will go to the classrooms and operational needs rather than capital projects,” Hopkins explained. “For our community, the research is clear: investing in your public schools will pay dividends many times over in improving your home value.”

Hopkins pointed to a statistic from the National Bureau of Economic Research that states home values increase by $20 for every dollar spent on public schools in a community.

Last year, the school board approved a facility study committee consisting of parents, staff and community members, to review what was accomplished in the 2016 bond proposal and what improvements are still needed.

“The polling results were very favorable as there is an understanding the 2016 bond proposal would not address all the district-wide needs,” Hopkins said.

If approved by voters, the debt millage rate would increase by an estimated 0.26 mills over the current tax rate. For a $100,000 market value home, this equates to an estimated increase of $1.08 per month or $13 per year.

Superintendent Jerry Hopkins said the upcoming $67 million bond proposal addresses schools they were not able to renovate within the 2016 bond, including the high school, middle school and Early Childhood Center

School by School Breakdowns 

The bond proposal focuses on these three areas:

High School

  • Modernize classrooms and educational spaces
  • Replace furniture and educational technology
  • Remodel extended learning spaces and small group rooms
  • Add instructional space for music programming
  • Replace band and orchestra instruments
  • Renovate Performing Arts Center
  • Renovate and expand physical education classrooms, spaces and storage
  • Add STEM classroom
  • Enhance security measures

Hopkins said a new STEM classroom would be designed to provide career-focused, hands-on instructional experiences. Additional space is needed for fine arts and physical education programming along with revamping the Performing Arts Center, he said.

As in 2016, Hopkins said technology is included so the district can continue to maintain a replacement cycle with bond funds rather than using general fund resources. “Our technology replacement cycle accounts for technology to last five years, the same period of time in which technology purchases must be paid for when using bond funds.”

Additional internal safety measures also will be explored in making improvements at the middle and high schools.

Middle School

  • Modernize classrooms, media center and auditorium
  • Replace furniture and educational technology
  • Expand cafeteria and kitchen
  • Upgrade aging building systems including mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, and new fire suppression system
  • Renovate restrooms, locker rooms and music rooms
  • Replace band and orchestra instruments
  • Enhance security measures

“The reality is our middle school operates today as it did when it was our high school 20 years ago,” Hopkins said. “In fact, some of our language arts classes are taught in the original science rooms.”

Early Childhood Center

  • Renovate and increase classrooms, and add bathrooms to each 
  • Replace furniture and educational technology
  • Upgrade playground equipment
  • Replace aging boilers and roof
  • Add entrance off Kinney Avenue NW
  • Enhance security measures

“Our Early Childhood Center (formerly Walker Station) is a tired elementary school that was never designed for preschool-age students,” Hopkins explained. The proposal would update classrooms and expand them to include a bathroom, as well as increase their number to serve more students and add “age-appropriate playground equipment,” he said.

Replacing the aging boilers and roof were planned under the 2016 bond proposal, Hopkins said, but it was decided to wait to avoid the potential of redoing work under the construction proposed by this bond. The bond would change the “the footprint of the building” with bigger and more classrooms, Hopkins explained.  “We have waiting lists for our early childhood programming and do not have any extra classrooms to accommodate an increase in Great Start Readiness Preschool classrooms.”

An additional security vestibule will be constructed at the Early Childhood Center for the child care program, which operates before and after the school day and during school breaks when the main entrance is not open.

Replacing More Buses 

Other uses of bond funds would include strategic and ongoing replacement of educational technology throughout the district, and further replacing its aging bus fleet with 13 new buses over 12 years. “Purchasing educational technology and buses with bond funds allows us to maintain a replacement cycle that does not require the use of general funds, which can instead be used for classrooms,” Hopkins said.

The district bought 14 buses and will purchase five more using funds from the 2016 bond. The success of that request holds hope for the upcoming one, Hopkins said.

“On May 3, 2016, our community came out big to show its Knight Pride,” Hopkins said. “There is no better feeling than knowing the community supports its public schools. Support comes in many ways, and we are extremely appreciative and grateful for our community’s ongoing support.”

Visit Bond 2020 for more information and a list of public information sessions in March.

Zinser Elementary Improvements

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Cris Greer
Cris Greer
For more than three decades, Cris Greer has been a wordsmith, working in the fields of journalism, advertising and marketing. Much of the past decade, he helped grow the MLive Statewide High School Sports desk as a supervisor, editor and reporter, which included eight newspapers in Michigan and mlive.com. Cris also was a freelancer for The Grand Rapids Press, The Advance and On the Town magazine for many years. A good portion of his early career was spent building and managing the copywriting team in the advertising department at Meijer, Inc., where he oversaw copywriting for print ads, mailers, brochures, signage, several dozen in-house magazines per year and much more.

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