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FAQs about May 5, 2020 Pine River bond proposal

What is the bond proposal all about?

The 0.0 net mill increase, $3.9 million, building improvement bond proposal on May 5, 2020, if approved by voters, would keep our millage rate--already the lowest in the Wexford-Missaukee Intermediate School District and Osceola County, at the exact same rate and allow us to bring our elementary, middle, and high schools up-to-grade in some much-needed areas, including a set of new classrooms and Title instructional rooms/offices. The net effect of this zero mill increase is an extension of our current property taxes for home owners. If passed, the building improvement proposal would not increase the amount of taxes for homeowners.

Why are we considering this? Why were these items not addressed in 2016—didn’t we just do this?

We have a chance to extend our existing millage rate in order to make our schools better, brighter, and safer for our students. While we addressed pressing issues in 2016, out of respect for folks who work hard and raise kids here, we only asked for absolute necessities. Four years have passed and this is an opportunity to address some lingering issues for our schools and our kids, such as dedicated music and art classrooms for our elementary students and complete locker room renovations in our middle and high schools.

Why not just re-open Luther Elementary?

It’s just not a good financial or academic answer. Re-opening Luther would require between $1.2 and $2 million to bring the building up to current code and make it ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) code compliant. The plumbing has only been used infrequently since the building’s closing in the Spring of 2013. The serviceable appliances and furniture have been removed from the kitchen and classrooms. Additionally, we would have to split up kids, teachers, administrators, and reading specialists, or more realistically—in order to provide quality instruction—hire more teachers, administrators, aides, and reading specialists to staff the building. More buses would be needed with more drivers. While there would be a one-time upgrade of $1.2 to $2 million based on need once the physical plant, building and grounds, electrical, and mechanical systems were evaluated and work begun in earnest, the on-going annual extra cost for operating would be so cost prohibitive that we could not operate past the first year, thus calling for closure yet again.

Also, the District is currently working with the Village of Luther and Townships of Ellsworth and Newkirk on a purchase agreement to open up village and township offices and create a community center. The village and the townships would like to eventually operate the kitchen and reopen the gymnasium as part of the purchase, creating a wonderful space for kids and adults.

Could We Open Tustin Elementary?

Tustin Elementary is open and it is home to the area’s Great Start/Head Start program and Grandma’s Daycare; the district has signed leases with both these entities to ensure they have a home for the near and foreseeable future! Both Great Start/Head Start and the daycare are filled with Pine River kids and families. In addition to the monetary and operational issues mentioned in the previous question, a whole new problem of where kids would go for GSRP-Head Start and daycare would be born.

I know the District had to deal with a Construction Manager who made a mistake on the football field and high school gym floor—are we thinking of using the same firm to oversee the projects?

The district did have to push back to ensure the warranty on the football field, track, and high school gym floor were enforced and the work redone to Pine River’s satisfaction. The district did not allow the construction management firm to walk away from these issues. We wanted then and want now the best work done for our kids and we made sure the CM got the job done the way we asked. The Construction Management firm from the 2016 bond will not be invited back.

Why not just build a brand new, K-12, with all facilities and athletics at Woodpecker Flats?

While the district owns a lot of land at Woodpecker Flats—320 acres—and while much of it is sand and great for building on, the cost for new construction, for 1100 kids and 108 staff members would be anywhere from $125 to $250 million depending on materials and what kind of effort we’d want to put into the project. For most homeowners this would mean multiplying their current tax levy by a factor of 10 to 20 times, a considerable amount. The question back would be: Do we need a new complex in order to provide our kids with a quality education? We felt the answer was no. Would it be nice? Yes. Convenient? Absolutely. But, on top of the added cost, we would be abandoning two more buildings. The reward for building all brand new is tempting, but the committee and Board both felt Woodpecker Flats would be extravagant. Keeping the bond proposal sound and economical while fulfilling our needs at a $0.0 increase seemed more sensible.

How crowded is the elementary school? The elementary is quite full—lots of students and that is a great thing, but there just isn’t much room when all the kids are in class which creates an overflow issue. Some students need extra instruction in mathematics and reading and when there is no official room to go to, the school has been creative by using shower curtains and tables in the hallway. We’ve also been using the library for music classes.

When would construction begin?

In phases, with some work being done in summer of 2020, but most of the work would be accomplished in the summer and fall of 2021. We will know more after the election when we would sit down and plan the projects.

What improvements—exactly—are we targeting?

Great Question! Here are the areas we are looking at for improvements:

Elementary School Classrooms and Offices

Our biggest area of concern is lack of instructional rooms in which to teach. We need classroom and office space to teach large and small groups. Currently, we are using hallway space by drawing shower curtains across our elevators and sitting at tables in the hallways in order to work on Title I and provide other services. Due to limited space, our art teacher has all her materials on a cart and has to meet with kids in their rooms which takes away time from all concerned (set up, clean-up, and if it won’t fit on a cart we just don’t do it). Also, our music classes all meet in the library or on the stage in the gymnasium, thus limiting the availability of these areas.

In order to remain compliant with confidentiality and to maximize learning, we would like to add 4,700 square feet of space—three classrooms and three office-size spaces, to ensure better learning for all and return the elementary library back to a full-time library. This addition would be to the west of our existing third-grade classrooms and would still leave us 12 feet of room before the sidewalk.

Current Music Room is the elementary library

Current Art Room is on a cart

Replace Middle School Boilers

While we replaced the elementary and high school boilers as part of the 2016 bond project, we were not able to address the middle school boilers. These boilers are from 1996 and not as efficient as our new boilers in the high school and elementary. New boilers in the middle school would help us save money on heat and better maintain consistent heat. The existing boilers are almost a quarter-century old and have been breaking down the last handful of winters, calling for more and more repairs on an inefficient system.

Replace windows, door locksets, and restroom partitions at the Elementary School

The windows of the gymnasium are believed to be the original from 1937 and need an upgrade to increase heating efficiency and become fire code compliant. The locksets likewise, need to be brought up to code. Restroom partitions are aged and in need of replacement.

Fencing and Visitors’ Bleachers at football field/track

In order to protect our new track and football field, fencing would be added around the high school track and a small set of permanent bleachers would be added to the visitors’ side of the football field and track, thus protecting our investment and creating a better place for our guests at track meets and football games. We have a great looking fall and spring sport field and track and we want to protect our investment while welcoming our guests.

Fire Alarm System, ventilation system, lockers, kitchen flooring, and gymnasium padding at the Elementary School

The fire alarm system is part 1937, part 1967, and part 1996, and quite simply is not up to grade. We need to address the aging ventilation system, lockers, and failing kitchen flooring in the elementary school as well. The wall padding in the elementary gymnasium, a necessity for young children, is aging and showing signs of weakness and wear. After a certain number of years and many maintenance efforts and repairs, it is simply time to make some more permanent repairs in the elementary for our students—the fire alarm system simply has to be upgraded, but comes with quite a cost. Our elementary gym is stately and inviting and we love it, but we would like to add some safety and security.

At the Middle School and High School: Locker Rooms

Another chief concern of the district is the continuing disrepair of the high school and middle school locker rooms. The original locker rooms in the high school (1967) and middle school (1996) are badly in need of repair and restoration. Both the high school and middle school locker rooms have been the subject of inquiry from students, staff, visiting schools, administrators, and others interested in seeing improvements. The rooms are heavily used and the ceiling tiles are aged and falling apart, showers are old and not working properly, tiles are in disrepair, stall doors and bathrooms in need of attention, and the lockers and bench areas are narrow and won’t accommodate athletic equipment for many of our kids. The locker rooms were built many years ago and at the time took care of our needs, but wear and tear have created a negative situation that has gone far beyond routine maintenance and preventative care.

Playground Pavilion and accessible route to playground at the Elementary School

Our younger students need a place to congregate outside when the sun is bright or the weather inclement. A pavilion of some sort adjacent to the playground would provide relief and a place for teachers to be with students outside as part of instruction, demonstration, or assembly. Currently, our access to the playground via the rear doors at the elementary is kids jumping down from a sidewalk and racing down a grade. Due to weather, this is sometimes a less-than-ideal situation—we would like to create a safer access through grading, paving, or steps with a defined pathway.

At the Middle School and High School: Sanitation Pond, Baseball and Softball Press Boxes

Our sanitation pond at the Middle/High School is aging and in need of repair/replacing. We need to work on the perimeter of the pond, improve the embankments, and address the fence line. Our sanitation pond, built in 1967, is our only way of dealing with waste water for our middle and high schools, and is in need of some support if we are going to extend its use. Also in need of attention are the jv/varsity baseball and softball press boxes. Built by staff, parents, and boosters, the press boxes are simply aged and in need of replacement. The goal would be to pour a foundation and rebuild to code.

High School and Middle School Cafeterias and Kitchens

The ceiling of the high school cafeteria needs renovating; it is simply aged and stained and in need of replacement. The dishwasher in the kitchen is extremely old and no longer can keep up with the needs of the kitchen—it breaks down a lot and needs to be replaced.

In the middle school, the old wall-mounted drop-down table system is out of compliance and is not used per its original design—in order to address this safety issue, we’d like to remove the table ends from the wall completely and house middle school trophies and obtain a safer table and seating system.

High School Art Room and Science Rooms

The high school art room and biology room are in need of table top, counter, and casework replacement and renovation. These rooms are part of the original high school from 1967 and are in need of attention. The art room used to be the home economics room and this programming called for different needs than we have now. Our expanding STEM programming in the middle and high school calls for some attention in the high school biology room.

High School and Middle School bathrooms, doors, and plumbing

In order to maintain healthy and sanitary conditions in our middle school and high school bathrooms, we need to replace partitions, replace again plumbing fixtures and other restroom accessories. We have door handles and doors to replace as time and weather wears at the exterior of the building, in the corridor near our band room, and in order to address ADA compliance.

Okay, so now what? What is the bottom line?

These are costly fixes that cannot be done as part of the regular school budget. Please vote on this important building improvement bond on May 5, 2020.

Better, Brighter, and Safer! Building the Buckhood!