Prior to the Almont Board of Education voting on the bond issue, there are several items of information that the public should know.
Item I: New High School option: Several people on Facebook have expressed their opinion that we should be building an entirely new high school. There are two reasons why that won’t happen.
Reason 1: The majority of the proposed bond issue cost is for repairs and renovation to existing facilities–buildings and grounds. The High School is entering its 36th year of operation, Orchard Primary is entering its 25th and the Middle School its 19th. Any building nearing its 40th year of operation will require major repairs and renovations to its mechanical systems (HVAC and lighting), entry systems (doors and windows), exterior (roof, sidewalks, and parking lot), and interior furnishing (furniture and fixtures). Orchard Primary and the Middle School also have costly issues that must be fixed.
If you make these mandatory repairs and also tried to build a new High School, the costs would require the bond millage rate to increase. This is something that the Board of Education opposes.
Reason 2: Any bond proposal requires State of Michigan approval. The proposed bond is currently being reviewed by the State. For the construction of a new building, the State requires that the student population projections (there are at least three projections with different numbers) indicate the necessity of the construction of a new building. The existing projections do not indicate the need for a new building. The projections, however, do indicate the need for additional classroom space. The State would not approve the construction of a new High School.
Item II: Security issues: The bond proposal includes replacement of doors and windows to create a safer educational environment. This is more costly than just replacing the doors and windows.
Item III: Energy efficiency: The proposal includes on-site energy generation to minimize the cost of operation of the facility. The cost of operating a school can be split into two basic categories–operation and instruction. The operational costs (HVAC, lights, custodial and maintenance costs) vary little whether a building has 400 student or 600 students. Lowering the operational costs means more money can be spent on instruction.
Item IV: Additional educational space: The student projections indicates that the district needs to add classroom and athletic spaces.
About five years ago, a prior Board of Education could not find a means to cover the costs to “moth-ball” the old school and sold the building. With this sale, the number of classrooms in the school systems was reduced by about 35 rooms and the gymnasium space was reduced from three to two gyms. The result, today, is overcrowded classrooms and practice times that are either shorter than they should be or extend into the evening.
In February, the former superintendent proposed to the Board of Education a bond proposal of about $72 million. Included in that proposal were a number of options that the Board of Education felt were too costly. It was felt that other options could meet the children’s education needs at a lower cost. Included in that proposal was a gymnasium which was designed to primarily service the basketball and volleyball programs.
The Board of Education took a step back and came up with cheaper options to meet the educational needs of the communities’ children. They have removed the “wants” and reduced the proposal to the districts needs. This was done through interactions with school staff, parents, and community members. Additionally, discussions with State officials and educational leaders about what were the educational needs of a school district in 2024 were held. The result is the proposal that they have submitted to the State.
Included in the proposal is the “Multiple Event Center” (my name), which replaced the former superintendent’s gymnasium. If we built a new school, this is what the design would look like. Not a gymnasium designed primarily for basketball and volleyball but a structure that included spaces for the practice need of the other sports. Spaces for the baseball and softball team members to practice pitching and hitting; spaces for the track teams to practice their jumping and throwing events and a running surface. The running surface could be used by all the sports and the community. Also, spaces for the other sports are included.
Additionally, to reduce overall costs, included in this structure will be specialized classroom for STEAM and robotics class. Also, there are other classroom spaces included.
Item V: Millage rate: The millage rate will be reduced from 8 mills to 7 mills. The State will determine the length of time the rate will be applied.
— James R. Wade Sr.