Dear Editor,

Boards of Education were created by State law to oversee school districts. A Board of Education consists of seven publicly elected representatives from the school district’s community.

A Board of Education has essentially two functions. First, on an ongoing basis, a Board of Education oversees the education of the community’s children. Secondly, on a periodic basis, the Board assesses that the school’s facilities are meeting the children’s educational needs and not inhibiting the process of educating the children. Over time, facilities will require major repairs, renovations, upgrades, and additions to meet the children’s changing educational needs.

As a result of the overcrowding at Orchard Primary (nearly 108% of capacity in 2022-23), over 18 months ago the Almont Board began an evaluation process of the school’s facilities–buildings and grounds. Through a series of meetings with the school staff, parents, community members, and educational experts, an extensive list of repairs, renovations, upgrades and additions needed to meet the educational needs of the children was prepared.

The former superintendent proposed to the Board of Education a bond issue to meet the identified needs of the district. This proposal had a cost of $72 million, a continuation of the 8.45 mill levy and a term of 30 years. The proposal included repairs, renovations, upgrades and additions to school’s facilities. The additions included classrooms to meet the predicted enrollment increase over the next five years. Also, to replace the gymnasium lost when the old school was sold, a gymnasium designed primarily for basketball and volleyball was included.

Almont’s Board of Education determined the proposed bond was too costly, carried too high a millage, and the term was too long.

The Almont Board of Education took a step back and reassessed the district’s needs and sought additional input from the community and experts in educational facility development. They searched for less costly means of meeting the educational needs of our children. The result was a bond issue that met the educational needs of our children. That proposal has a cost or $58.2 million not $72 million. The millage rate to fund the bond proposal dropped to 7 mills instead of the 8.45 mills and the term was reduced from 30 years to 22 years. They did their job creating a proposal that meets the educational needs of our children and excluded any wants!

The most controversial portion of the proposal is the athletic complex. That complex is not just designed for athletics. It includes specialized classroom spaces for the STEAM program, the robotics program and an enlarged band complex. It also includes executive offices for the superintendent and staff which frees up classroom spaces in the high school, which are now used as the superintendent’s offices.

The athletic portion of this construction will provide training spaces for most of the school’s athletic teams not just basketball and volleyball. It will permit practices to be of appropriate length and conducted on a schedule that does not materially impact the student’s family life–no early morning or late night practices.

Additionally, the athletic facility will permit the school district to improve its physical education programs because of the additional facilities and equipment that will be available. There will be designated times when community members can use the facility to improve or maintain their level of physical fitness. The facility will permit the conducting of athletic programs that generate monies for the school district, which can be used to improve the district’s education of our children and not require increased taxes.

At some point in the not too distant future, the school district will need to build a new high school. The athletic component of that building will not be a basketball/volleyball style gymnasium. It will be a much, much larger version of the athletic complex the Board of Education is now proposing. This will be necessary for the school to remain competitive with nearby schools– both athletically and educationally

By law, the State of Michigan requires school districts to compete for students. In large part that competition should be based on the quality of the education the children are receiving. However, it is also greatly influenced by the quality and types of facilities offered by the school district.

The members of the Almont Board of Education are not Lansing or Washington D.C. politicians. They are your relatives, friends, and neighbors. They do not want our taxes to be any higher than absolutely necessary to meet the educational needs of our children. More than anyone in the community, they have spent the time and effort to determine the educational needs of our children and how to meet those needs. They put forth a proposal that meets the children’s needs and only their needs. If there were wants, they would have been on a separate bond issue.

Our children deserve this proposal and more importantly need it. I will be voting for the bond, and my school debt tax bill will be less next year than it is this year.

— James R. Wade Sr.