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Voters give a strong ‘yes’ to $192 million bond request

Will pay for arts, technology and new year-round school

Kentwood — District voters on Tuesday, May 4 overwhelmingly passed a proposed $192.15 million bond that will pay for substantial school upgrades and a new year-round K-8 school, all without a tax increase. 

The measure was approved by a more than two-to-one vote of 3,739 to 1,776. The approval will fund a new K-8 school for students who opt for a balanced calendar school-year schedule, a new Career Technology Education Center, and upgrades and enhancements to all district facilities.

Superintendent Michael Zoerhoff praised the Kentwood community’s commitment to education, strength and resilience after a year of living through a global pandemic.

“The outcome of this election demonstrates the strong partnership between the Kentwood community and the Kentwood Public Schools and resilience,” Zoerhoff said. “Together with our staff, parents and volunteers, we remain committed to providing an education of equity and excellence to every student in a Kentwood school.”

Related story: Kelloggsville voters approve operational millage

The bond will not result in a millage rate increase but instead effect a projected net decrease of 0.25 mills, said Todd Bell, executive director of finance and business operations. The district’s current millage levy is 4.25 ($4.25 per $1,000 in taxable value), the lowest in the county, and would decrease to a projected 4.0 mills, he said.

The decrease is possible due to low interest rates, the growing district’s excellent bond rating, and increased commercial and residential property values in the district, he said. 

New School and Tech Center 

Facility improvements funded by the bond for the 9,000-student district include:

  • A K-8 school that operates on a balanced-calendar schedule, meaning students would have more and shorter breaks throughout the school year, rather than the traditional summer break. For example, nine weeks in session followed by three weeks off. Enrollment at the school, at a location to be determined, would be optional for families. 
  • A Career Technology Education Center, where students could spend part of their school day learning trades and a vocation. That location is also to be determined. 
  • Enhanced fine art spaces, including new music rooms at elementary schools, auditoriums, and space for high school STEM initiatives.

In addition, other bond-funded projects include: 

  • Kitchen and cafeteria additions and renovations at all 10 elementary schools to allow meals to be made on-site for all schools;
  • Gymnasium additions at elementary schools;
  • Playground enhancements;
  • Athletic facility improvements;
  • Restroom renovations.

The bond will also fund technology needs over the next 10 years, safety and security system upgrades and infrastructure, officials say.

“This vote demonstrates that our community recognizes the district as a center point of engagement for all ages and backgrounds,” Zoerhoff said. “To our voters, we continue to say ‘Thank you’ for your confidence and continued engagement with our schools.”

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Alexis Stark
Alexis Stark is a reporter, covering Caledonia and Kenowa Hills and is a roving reporter for Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She grew up in metro Detroit and her journalism journey brought her west to Grand Rapids via Michigan State University where she covered features and campus news for The State News. She also co-authored three 100-question guides to increase understanding and awareness of various human identities, through the MSU School of Journalism. Following graduation, she worked as a beat reporter for The Ann Arbor News - covering stories on education, community, prison arts and poetry.  Following a stint as a copywriter for a Grand Rapids area PR firm, she transitioned from communications to freelance writing and reporting for SNN. Read Alexis' full bio

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