Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 8, 2013

Central Grade School among bond decisions

BY MICHAEL WALTON mwalton@record-eagle.com
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Traverse City Area Public Schools’ Board of Education members have some key questions to mull before deciding what bond initiatives, if any, to place on this year’s November ballot.

Chief among those questions is whether to pursue funds for major renovation plans at Central Grade School this fall, or if it’s better to wait three or four years to pitch that project to voters.

TCAPS administrators recommended delaying the Central Grade proposal when they briefed the board on the size and scope of possible 2013 millages during a meeting Monday night, but some board members said now is as good a time as any, given documented public support for the project.

“Personally, I would rather ask that question now and let the community decide what they want to support,” board member Megan Crandall said.

Results from a scientific phone survey conducted by Lansing-based Public Sector Consultants as part of the district’s review of last year’s bond showed nearly 75 percent of registered voters in the district either supported or leaned toward supporting Central Grade School renovations.

Crandall called the elementary a “crown jewel” of the district based on its history, central location in Traverse City, 600-student population and potential flexibility to hold additional TCAPS programs.

But the roughly 80-year-old school needs major work, including, but not limited to, replacing the building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems, said Paul Mahon, TCAPS’ director of capital projects and maintenance.

The third floor of the elementary school, which is currently unused, also needs to be gutted and replaced. District officials estimate the full school makeover will cost between $23 million and $26 million.

Construction at Central Grade School would not begin for six to eight years if voters approve the project along with other capital improvement plans on TCAPS’ agenda.

The district’s review indicated many voters wanted a shorter overall time frame for the completion of bond projects.

Board member Scott Hardy wondered, though, if the district could accelerate any approved Central Grade School renovations by starting construction during summer months when students aren’t in school.

“I’d like to see if there are any out-of-the-box ideas on how we could do that,” Hardy said, adding “It would be nice to get started while we still have the strong support.”

Several board members identified reconstruction projects at Interlochen, Eastern and Glenn Loomis elementary schools as among the district’s most pressing capital improvement needs.

“I don’t want to be here in a year and have those not addressed,” board President Kelly Hall said.

The current state of those schools leads to inequities between buildings in the district, Hardy said.

“It’s not fair to the kids, and it’s not fair to the parents,” he said.

TCAPS administrators included the Interlochen, Eastern and Glenn Loomis reconstruction projects along with bus and technology replacements, and security upgrades at Central High School and West Middle School as the core components of a possible 2013 main bond proposal.

More than 75 percent of voters supported or leaned toward supporting the three reconstruction projects, according to the formal phone survey. Bus replacements and technology upgrades received 81- and 80-percent nods of support, respectively.

About 55 percent of voters supported or leaned toward supporting a 670-seat reconstruction to make Central High School’s auditorium “functionally equitable” to West Senior High School’s auditorium. TCAPS administrators recommended floating a separate millage regarding that project this year.

Many voters cited a more ambitious, $18-million Central auditorium project as a particular sticking point of last November’s millage.

Board members want to have a final decision on 2013 bonds by mid-June.