Superintendent lays out proposed $17.35 million bond vote

Funds would renovate Lee Middle and High after roof collapse

A current view of the portion of Lee Middle and High School that was damaged during a roof collapse last summer, which destroyed seven classrooms and a psychologist’s office

Superintendent Kevin Polston laid out a plan to raise $17.35 million in a proposed bond vote next fall to renovate Lee Middle and High School, at the first of two community meetings to address damage the building sustained in a roof collapse last June.

It would require an increase of 1.67 mills to raise that amount for the 30-year bond issue, Polston said. For a $39,057 market value home, that would be an increase of $65.13 per year or $5.50 per month.

Bond Proposal Timeline
• March 23 – Second community meeting
• April 20 – Board vote to schedule bond request
• June 3 – Michigan Treasury meeting to approve bond request
• September and October – Information campaign
• Nov. 3 – Community vote on bond request

TowerPinkster representative Steven Hoekzema said this is an opportunity to upgrade the entire building all at once

Following a second community meeting slated for March 23, the school board expects to vote April 20 to place a bond request on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Polston said officials initially hoped to begin the renovation in late summer. “However, as we presented the plans to the State Fire Marshal,” he added, “they said we can’t restore it without upgrading the fire suppression or sprinkling system throughout the rest of the building, and that is not something we planned on.

“That really put things at a standstill, and we had to step back and regroup on how we’re going to do that. We don’t want to do those projects separately.”

Seven classrooms and the psychologist’s office were destroyed during a roof collapse on June 5 at the building, 1335 Lee St. SW. It was determined that corrosion of bar joists that supported the roof structure caused it to disengage from the exterior wall.

On June 23, the remaining structure of the affected area collapsed from the weight of the debris. With localized repairs, the remaining portion of the building was ready for opening day as planned on Aug. 19.

Polston said during initial community forums last fall that renovation would cost between $25 and $30 million. Officials since then subtracted what they deemed non-essentials, and determined spending $17.35 million would “add value to the experience of our students and serve the building well into the future,” he said. 

The actual figure is $18.35 million minus a conservative insurance estimate of $1 million.

Superintendent Kevin Polston laid out a new plan to raise $17.35 million in a bond vote next fall to renovate Lee Middle and High School, at the first of two community meetings

The Breakdown

Polston outlined the recommendations for Lee Middle and High. They include: 

  • Upgrade all classrooms
  • New band room, cafeteria, library and flexible learning spaces
  • Four new classrooms
  • Convert old library to three classrooms
  • Add new parking spaces
  • Fire suppression, fire alarms, fire walls, new mechanical and electrical equipment
  • Furniture and technology upgrades
  • Improve accessibility for disabled students

“Portions of the building are quite old, going all the way back to 1923, so this is an opportunity to upgrade the entire building all at once,” said Steven Hoekzema, director of K-12 education at the TowerPinkster architecture and engineering firm. “One of the goals is to tie all the levels in together.

“We feel really good about getting all the major pieces that the community wanted.”

Advocating for Students

Polston said school facility funding in the state of Michigan is not fair or equal, making raising money for improvements like this even more challenging.

“Godfrey-Lee has the second lowest taxable value in the state of Michigan, which means it is really hard for us to raise significant funds for facilities,” he explained. “We’ve done a lot of advocating to our state representatives to share our story with them, so they know our kids deserve the same as any other kid in any other community. They deserve the best.”

For more information on the project and its background, visit Lee Middle and High School Restoration.

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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. Read Cris's full bio or email Cris.

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