By: Erin Albanese – School News Network
Community member Jim Swoboda’s children had a great experience at Kentwood Public Schools. He said they benefited from the diversity of the student body and passionate teachers.
“Our kids got a great education here,” said Swoboda, whose children graduated from East Kentwood High School. He now chairs the Kentwood Friends of Education. “We want to make sure all the kids coming behind them have an equal or better opportunity than they did.”
So, Swoboda and other district parents and community are rallying to get word out on a $65 million bond request on the ballot Tuesday, Nov. 3. It is the district’s second attempt to pass the proposal to fund security, technology, new buses and facility upgrades.
After a similar proposal for the same amount narrowly failed in May with a vote of 4,407 to 4,055, parents rallied to try again. The district has also worked to better communicate details of the bond.
“We felt we owed it to those parents,” Superintendent Michael Zoerhoff said.
A community survey paid for by Kentwood Friends for Education showed support. “People overwhelmingly said, ‘put it back on,’ and that’s why we we’re back,” Swoboda said.
The survey sought to capture a cross-section of registered voters and parents to guide the district leadership’s decision to bring another bond proposal to the board, Zoerhoff said. It was mailed, emailed and posted on social media to solicit feedback from staff, parents and community members. More than 1,000 people responded.
The 30-year proposal would cost about 72 cents per week for the owner of a $100,000 home. The district recently refinanced existing debt, which reduced the 2014 millage to 3.5 mills. The proposed bond issue will raise the millage rate 0.75 mills to a total of 4.25 mills. This new rate is lower than the 4.6 mills that were levied in 2014.
If approved, bond projects would occur over the next 10 years. About 25 percent of bond funds are planned for technology; 27 percent toward safety and security and 48 percent toward improving operational efficiency, including building renovations.
A Breakdown of Projects
In the area of safety and security, bond projects would include:
• Remodeled school entryways creating limited access to students and classrooms
• Improved traffic-flow measures at buildings to create safer, more efficient environments for traveling to and from facilities
• Updated building-wide communications systems
• The gradual replacement of an aging school bus fleet
• Playground upgrades to meet current safety guidelines
In the area of technology, projects would include:
• New computers and devices, purchased gradually over 10 years, allowing the district to implement a long-term technology plan
• Upgrades to network infrastructure and modernizations at each school location to support and serve more technology
• Remodeling media centers into flexible “collaboration centers” throughout the district. The spaces would be outfitted for technology and used for large-group instruction
In the area of operational efficiency, including building renovations, projects would include:
• Elementary media center renovations with new technology and furniture
• Meadowlawn Elementary School renovations including the addition of a gymnasium to bring it up to the district-wide standard
• A new secure community entrance for after-school and recreation programs (youth arts and athletics) at Valleywood Middle School
• Locker room remodeling and upgrades at Pinewood and Valleywood middle schools for use by students and community.
• Fine arts classrooms at East Kentwood High School would be renovated
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