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Bond proposals approved to fund elementary renovation, facility upgrades

A resounding ‘yes’ for multiple school district ballot initiatives

Multiple districts — Voters said ‘yes’ across the board in Kent ISD school districts Tuesday, with residents in Kenowa Hills and Lowell approving significant bond proposals and those in Comstock Park and Thornapple Kellogg passing funding renewals.

Kenowa Hills Public Schools

Requested: A zero-millage tax rate increase over the current tax rate, generating $37 million for the district to use toward building safety improvements, new baseball and softball athletic complexes, turf and lighting installation, tennis and pickleball courts and a multi-purpose field for soccer and lacrosse.

Voters said: YES, 2,149; No, 1,787

Superintendent Jerry Hopkins said funds generated by the passage of the bond proposal will continue to support the district’s master plan adopted by the Board of Education in 2014 to improve academics and extracurriculars for students.

“We’re very excited and humbled that our community continues to support our efforts,” he said. “We have worked on the educational needs in our community; now we’re focusing on the outdoor learning spaces and extracurricular opportunities.”

With funds generated from the bond, the district plans to buy 45 acres of land from a local owner for a one-mile cross-country course and outdoor agriscience learning spaces behind the middle school.

“We want our middle and high school campus to become the hub of our district community,” Hopkins said.

In anticipation of this bond, teams conducted site visits at schools across West Michigan; the superintendent said the district will likely conduct more in the future.

“Our goal now is to focus on project details to make this vision a reality,” he said. 

Lowell Area Schools

Requested: A bond proposal for $104 million to fund facility improvements, including a $29.9 million renovation of Cherry Creek Elementary and $32.4 million in improvements at Lowell High School. No tax rate increase is expected from the current debt millage rate.

Voters said: YES, 2,094; No, 1,353

Superintendent Nate Fowler said improvements and renovations will focus on modernizing learning spaces, improving fine arts, athletics and community spaces and updating infrastructure. 

The renovation of Cherry Creek Elementary, 12675 Foreman St., will transform the former middle school into an elementary-style building with a focus on redesigned classrooms, corridors and shared spaces, site drainage and mechanics. The redesign wil mirror the newly renovated Lowell Middle School, which was funded by a $52.1 million bond passed by voters in 2019

Changes at the high school will include the renovation and expansion of the arts wing, creating designated space for the orchestra program, and improvements to high school athletics, including replacing the aging track.

“This ensures that we have safe and healthy learning environments where students can collaborate (and) engage with technology that will set them up for success when they leave Lowell schools,” Fowler said.

The projects also set the district up for enrollment growth.

Work at Cherry Creek, a multi-year project, is expected to begin in the spring of 2025. The high school track resurfacing will start next spring as well, with other high school improvements beginning in the second phase of the bond in a few years, the superintendent said.

“We are very grateful to the community for supporting the schools and supporting this initiative,” Fowler said. “There have been a lot of conversations over the last few years about the role of public schools in the community, and it feels really good to have the community’s validation for the work we do — the work educators do in Lowell and across the community.”

Comstock Park Public Schools

Requested: A 10-year renewal of its sinking fund, with a zero-tax increase of 0.9576 mills. The millage is estimated to raise about $500,000 per year which would be used for the maintenance and repair of facilities, infrastructure, technology and buses. 

Voters said: YES, 1,027; No, 700      

The district first passed its sinking fund millage in 2004 with a renewal in 2014. Since then, money generated has paid for roof repairs, parking lot repaving, door replacement, gym floor refinishing, lockers, athletic field improvements, land acquisition and other projects.

“Thank you to the Comstock Park community for supporting the passing of the sinking fund millage yesterday,” said Superintendent David Washburn. “Your vote and advocacy for this demonstrated a shared commitment to the well-being and future of our district.

“On behalf of the Board of Education, we are truly humbled by the trust you have placed in our leadership and vision for the future. Your confidence inspires us to continue working to fulfill our responsibilities and serve the best interests of our community.”

Thornapple Kellogg Public Schools

Requested: A renewal of the district’s operating millage at the current rate of 18 mills on non-homestead property. The millage equates to more than $3.8 million in funding each year and is not a new tax or a tax increase.

Voters said: YES, 1,189; No, 648

Voters approved a similar 10-year, non-homestead operating tax levy renewal in 2014.  

“This renewal is essential for Thornapple Kellogg schools to continue to have the full funding necessary to continue to thrive and improve,” Superintendent Craig McCarthy said. “Losing these funds would have a major impact on the quality of the educational programming offered to our students.”  

Reporters Joanne Bailey-Boorsma and Alexis Stark contributed to this article.

Read more: 
A veteran superintendent looks back on 10 eventful years
Fifth-grade leaders offer schoolwide improvement ideas

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. 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


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