Shelby asking voters to approve $33M in district-wide improvements including new elementary school.

March 9, 2021

Shelby asking voters to approve $33M in district-wide improvements including new elementary school.

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor.

SHELBY — Shelby Public Schools has not had any major building improvements in over 20 years, and officials have placed a bond proposal on the May 4 ballot that will address critical building needs including the construction of a new elementary school.

“Historically, the district has been very fiscally responsible, very financially responsible, with its debt and we’ve continued to refinance and pay those debts off,” said Superintendent Tim Reeves. “We’re almost to a point where we’re at zero. What we’re asking for is 3.64 (mills).

“We have been able to maintain our facilities for many years,” said Reeves. “Now, we are at a point that we need to make updates throughout the district that will impact current and future Shelby learners. These updates will provide for safer, more secure learning environments with needed infrastructure updates.”

A key component to the project is “centralizing all of our learning into one campus,” the school leader said. K-3 students currently attend Thomas Read Elementary, and fourth and fifth grades are housed six miles to the south at New Era Elementary. This creates bussing and scheduling issues. “There is a lot of shuttling that has to happen.

“We’re bottlenecked by our 4-5 elementary building that is out on the fringe in New Era.”

Transportation is also an issue around the “landlocked” Thomas Read K-3 building, said Reeves.

“It would alleviate those problems,” said Reeves. “Not to mention both of those buildings are in need of some major safety upgrades.”

The district, which has an enrollment of approximately 1,200 students, operates four school buildings ranging in age from 24-66 years old with the high school as the newest building constructed in 1997, said Reeves.

In addition to a new elementary school that would be constructed north of the high school, the proposal calls for transitioning the current elementary school — Thomas Read and New Era — to early childhood and community resources facilities. Also included in the proposal are  renovations to the high school and middle school buildings.

If approved, the bond proposal would generate $33,000,000 for district-wide improvements.

The proposed project list can be viewed at www.shelbypublicschools2021.com.

A recent facilities assessment identified specific systems that have exceeded their expected life cycles, such as roofing and flooring.

Project details:

New K-5 elementary school: modern school safety measures, new classroom furniture, new educational technology such as audio/visual equipment and projectors and new age-appropriate play areas.

Early childhood center and Thomas Read Elementary: create a secure building entrance, reconfigure existing office, partial demolition of the north wing to improve traffic flow, gymnasium improvements, classroom furniture replacements and parking lot improvements.

New Era Elementary: main building as an educational and community facility, “light” building renovations and parking lot improvements.

Middle school: secure building entrance renovation and new entrance canopy, media center renovations and furniture, new classroom flooring, classroom and office furniture upgrades, technology replacement such as audio/visual equipment and projectors, roof replacement, facade upgrades, new lockers, parking lot improvements.

High school: secure building entrance renovation and new entrance canopy, auditorium upgrades including lighting, sound and seating and adding space for drama production and fine arts group collaboration, classroom, office and media center furniture upgrades, technology replacement such as audio/visual equipment and projectors, parking lot improvements and resurfacing the track.

In addition to serving as the early childhood center, the current Thomas Read building would also be used for the ASPIRE after-school program for all grade levels, said Reeves. “Instead of having them take up space in each of our buildings, we could consolidate them in one area.”

Adult and/or post high school learning opportunities would also occur in that building — “satellite opportunities through Muskegon Community College or West Shore Community College to have remote classes.”

“New Era’s plan would be to look to establish a private public partnership like we have with the Oceana County Early Learning Center (through Peterson Farms, Inc.) on the south (side of the county) to have it be a daycare and early learning center for people in New Era.

“The New Era School is a pretty little school on a pretty little hill in a pretty little village, and the last thing we want to do is just mothball that.”

Having a “flexible learning space” to accommodate modern demands is an important goal, the superintendent said. “We’re not trying to ask the community for a package that has a lot of bells and whistles. The new K-5 building would be designed in a way for just what we need.”

It is projected that the debt tax rate would increase by approximately 2.32 mills in the first year over the district’s current debt tax rate. This is approximately an additional $116 per year for each $50,000 in taxable value of your home.

Shelby Public Schools currently levies one of the lowest debt millage rates compared to neighboring districts, Reeves said. If approved by voters, the district would still remain in the lower half of these districts.

Shelby Public School property owners are currently paying the lowest debt tax rate in recent history due to previous bond debt being paid off, he said. If the bond proposal is approved, the debt tax rate is estimated to be near the district’s 2009 rate.

Initial bond planning started with a detailed facility assessment to identify critical infrastructure needs, coupled with an internal list developed by district administration and operations staff. A community stakeholder group met multiple times to discuss needs and options. Shelby staff, parents, and community members were invited to participate in two community forums and two surveys in 2020 to help provide input, review, and prioritize the scope of the bond proposal. The final determination of scope was made by district administration and the board of education.

A bond proposal in 2017 that included combining the high school and middle school into one building and converting the middle school building into an elementary school was rejected by voters. The new plan is entirely different from that previous proposal, Reeves said.

It is recommended by the Michigan Secretary of State’s office to register by mail by April 19 to participate in the Tuesday, May 4, election. Individuals can also register in person at their local clerk’s office through May 4 with the required documentation.

Every registered voter has the opportunity to vote absentee. Registered voters must complete an application to receive an absentee ballot and vote by mail. You can download an application from www.michigan.gov/vote  and mail it to your local clerk’s office.

Those seeking additional details about the bond proposal can attend public information forums scheduled for Tuesday, March 16, at 6 p.m. and Wednesday, April 21, at 6 p.m. More information with location details and virtual log-in information will be available soon.

If the bond proposal is approved, the community will have the opportunity to participate in the final planning, design, and implementation of the school expansions and improvements. A small committee for each building would be created for stakeholders to participate and provide input and feedback.

Construction would occur in multiple phases beginning in the spring of 2022.

Addressing the building needs will keep Shelby competitive with its neighboring districts, said Reeves. “We need to do some catch-up,” he said. “This isn’t a want — this is a need.”

Here is the ballot language:

SHELBY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
BONDING PROPOSAL

Shall Shelby Public Schools, Oceana County, Michigan, borrow the sum of not to exceed thirty-three million dollars ($33,000,000) and issue its general obligation unlimited tax bonds therefore, in one or more series, for the purpose of:

erecting, furnishing and equipping a new school building; erecting an addition to, remodeling, including security improvements to, furnishing and re-furnishing, and equipping and re-equipping existing school buildings; acquiring and installing instructional technology and instructional technology equipment for school buildings; and erecting, developing and improving playgrounds, athletic fields and facilities, driveways, parking areas and sites?

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