Bond Committee Recommends Constructing New Elementaries, Renovating Red Cedar

Tuesday, November 29, 2016, 8:10 am
By: 
Karessa Wheeler

The East Lansing Public Schools Community Bond Committee set forth a pair of scenarios Monday night in which the District would construct five new elementary schools and renovate Red Cedar Elementary if a new bond were approved by voters.

In Scenario One, the District would build five new, smaller schools with a capacity of 290 students, and renovate Red Cedar, for a cost of $76.5 to $84 million.

In Scenario Two, the Committee recommends constructing three medium schools of 350 students and two smaller schools, similar to the current configuration, plus renovating Red Cedar at a cost of $81.6 to $89.7 million.

Committee Chair Eric Schertzing said the majority – 75 percent – of the Bond Committee Members supported Scenario One.

“I don’t think we came up with the perfect, only answer. We wanted to but I don’t think we did,” Schertzing said. “But doing nothing should not be an option. Our children deserve a better environment in K-5 like we have created in the middle and high schools.”

The Board of Education will hold a public hearing on the recommendations Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. and plans to vote on the recommendation Dec. 12. The Board will then determine the language of the spring bond vote that would need to go to the State Department of Treasury by Jan. 9, 2017.

The 22-member Bond Committee met twelve times over the fall, discussing the current physical state of the buildings, current and future programming needs, enrollment trends and architect recommendations. They also conducted a community survey which found 75 percent of the respondents would support a bond to pay for the new buildings.

The group decided to assume that the District’s current K-5 enrollment of 1,630 students would remain stable. That figure does not include the 55 special education and developmental students, nor the students in pre-kindergarten programs.

They determined that of the six elementary buildings, only Red Cedar was in a good enough condition to warrant renovations.

“This building has features that allow it to be remodeled into a modern learning environment with opportunity for expansion in the future if needed. Its high ceilings, preserved woodwork and other attributes made it the best candidate for renovations and to include modern heat and cooling and other systems,” the Committee reported.

“One thing that struck me throughout is that Red Cedar is viewed as an asset. This is true if you are doing a construction project and need to house students temporarily but also because of its proximity to the University and how great it would be to grow that relationship,” Schertzing told the Board.

But the other five schools currently in use have deteriorated to the point that renovations are not feasible in many cases, and would not allow for wider hallways or higher ceilings, Schertzing said.

“Significant renovation would get you a very nice, refreshed school but the overall footprint would remain the same and wouldn’t really get us to the 21st century school that everyone would like,” he told the Board, adding that the difference in cost between renovation and rebuild is only 25 percent.

In addition, all of the school grounds except for Red Cedar need significant work to improve traffic flow, increase parking and improve safety issues, he said. Glencairn has additional problems with the soil on the site that would need to be addressed.

New construction would aim to give each building about 170 square feet per student which is the current standard. The buildings today range from 108 square feet per student at Pinecrest to 148 at Donley, said Dan Bollman, architect and member of the committee.

The actual design of the buildings, whether they would be one or two stories, and how much potential expansion is possible would be determined after the passage of the bond.

In the appendix to their report, the Board did include some scenarios by which classes could be distributed throughout the District. With 68 current K-5 classrooms, the Board determined that a six school option would allow for two classes of each grade in five schools, with eight classes in the sixth.

Scenario One (five small schools) would allow for fourteen classes in four schools with twelve classes in the fifth. Scenario Scenario Two would allow for sixteen classes in two schools and twelve classes in three schools.

A final option considered by the Board was having four elementary schools. Of those, three would have eighteen classes and one would have fourteen classes.

None of the distribution scenarios included special education, pre-kindergarten, preschool or developmental classes. 

 

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