After two consecutive defeats at the polls, one by just 250 votes, Traverse City Area Public Schools officials could be excused if they took a “you asked for it” approach and closed elementary buildings in desperate need of repair or replacement.
Instead, the school board has wisely decided to find other ways to deal with looming building issues that just won’t go away.
The district will spend about $1.2 million to extend the lives of Interlochen and Eastern elementary schools for five to seven years, a commitment to what must be the district’s overarching mantra: The kids come first.
Interlochen and Eastern are both on the district’s short-short list for critical repairs. At Interlochen, the roof is in such a bad state there are real concerns the building could come down. So TCAPS will spend $715,000 for several projects there, including replacing the roof. The district will spend $465,000 to replace the roof and public address system at Eastern.
It would have been easy to simply say that if this is what the voters want, this is what they’ll get.
Voters in 2012 thrashed a $100 million bond issue that would have provided money to replace or repair Interlochen, Eastern and Glenn Loomis elementary schools. That bond would also have paid for big districtwide investments in technology and safety, and do critical work on Traverse City Central’s aging auditorium, entrance and offices.
After a months-long outreach and listening effort during which board members met with a host of community and parent groups to get feedback on the 2012 bond, the district tried again. It put two issues on the 2013 ballot totaling just over $48 million that together would have cost the owner of a house with a taxable value of $100,000 just $36 a year. The larger issue lost by just 250 votes.
That left the board with no easy way to pay for building repairs, technical upgrades, new buses and much more.