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Worth the wait

Students see building improvements after delayed opening

Construction issues caused Kent City Community Schools to delay the start of the 2020-2021 school year, but students and staff are now enjoying the benefits of summer upgrades to their facilities. Officially, the district spent approximately $7 million of the $22 million bond passed last November by voters, said Superintendent Mike Weiler.

The good news, he said, is the district has already had numerous meetings for 2021 construction, so “we are ahead on our planning and our next phase is in much better standing.”

Security Upgrades

Among items completed over the summer was providing new security entrances for all buildings. 

“This is a big deal,” Weiler said. “We had buzzer systems at all schools, which was better than nothing, but now we were able to give every building the added security access so that everyone has to go through the office to get in.” 

Vice principal Will Lepech touted the increased safety at the elementary building. “Arrival and dismissals are the same as before, but visitors have to go through a double locking system and there are a lot more restrictions to get into the building. We are very excited about that,” Lepech said. 

The new elementary entrance also created much better sight lines from the front office — which houses both the office staff and principal Pam Thomas’s office — to the parking lot and playground area, Lepech said.

The high school parking lot underwent improvements

A Fresh Start

A new, large group space at the elementary building is expected to serve a variety of needs, including professional development sessions, assemblies, performances and, this year, overflow to help with social distancing. “We expect it to get a lot of use,” Weiler said.

Restrooms at the high school and the elementary building were refurbished and updated. “The old flooring from forever ago was replaced, and the side walls and partitions between stalls were changed for easier cleaning. The fresh start is awesome,” Lepech said.

A major upgrade at the elementary was consolidating three outdated boilers to one modern HVAC system, greatly improving energy efficiency, Weiler said. 

Other projects at the elementary, not yet complete, are redoing the gym space and adding an all-purpose room. The wood floor, which Lepech said had buckled from moisture through the years, is being replaced by a rubberized surface, “safer for students to play on, more functional and easy to clean.” 

Outside Matters

The entire parking area between the middle and high school was refurbished, and a new student parking lot was created directly in front of the high school. At one time the site of tennis courts, the non-paved area in the past few years had served as overflow student parking.

“Now the lower-end parking lot accommodates 200 vehicles and is a big deal for student parking and will be for evening activities,” said Weiler. “It is one of the largest lots on campus.”

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Janice Holst
Janice Holst
Janice Holst is a reporter covering Kent City and Sparta. She has been both a teacher and a journalist. A former MLive reporter, she wrote features and covered local government and schools for Advance Newspapers for nearly two decades. She also was a recipe columnist and wrote features for Mature Life Style and occasional entertainment pieces for On The Town magazines. She lives in Sparta Township and enjoys spending some of her retirement hours writing the stories of the northern Kent County school districts. Read Janice's full bio or email Janice.

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