New plan for Sam Adams school wouldn’t raise taxesPublished 5:00pm Wednesday, December 23, 2009
By AARON MUELLER
After two failed millage attempts to provide funding for a new K-8 building for Cassopolis Public Schools, a new plan is on the table to expand Sam Adams Elementary and convert it into a K-6 building without raising taxes.
The school will ask for a renewal of a 2.4 mill tax, which works out to be $2.40 for every $1,000 of taxable property value. The vote is set for Feb. 23 with voter registration ending Jan. 23.
If the millage passes, two new wings would be added to Sam Adams – one for kindergarten and first grade classrooms and another two-story wing for second through sixth grade classrooms. A total of 31 new classrooms would be added.
Dee Voss, the principal at Sam Adams Elementary, says updates to the building are necessary to improve the overall learning environment for the students.
“To be competitive, they need to be in a safe and comfortable learning environment,” she said. “Several areas of the school have improper heating and cooling. The rooms are small, and the lighting isn’t always good.”
Superintendent Greg Weatherspoon calls the vote “a no-brainer.”
“We need to update our facilities to improve the institution of learning,” he said. “It’s replacing things that are dysfunctional.”
Currently, many of the classrooms are too small with mold problems and poor wiring.
The project would improve the indoor air quality, update lighting and technology and provide new life safety systems, sprinklers and fire alarms. The playground would be completely enclosed, making the only possible entry point through the classrooms for improved safety.
Two new parking lots also would be added to improve traffic flow for parent pick-up and drop-off and at athletic events at the school gym.
The project would cost $15.71 million and the millage renewal would bring in $16 million.
Scott Ward, the chairperson for this Ranger Pride Project, says the expansion and improvement of Sam Adams is crucial.
“As (the school) sits, it is mechanically in very poor condition,” Ward said. “The technology is so obsolete that you can’t get replacement parts. From a cost standpoint, it is nickeling and diming the school to death.”
Ward also believes action needs to be taken now.
“The buildings (Sam Adams and Frank Squires) we’re dealing with now are 40-50 years old,” he said. “If we don’t address them now, it will cost a lot more in the future.”
Voss says it would also be advantageous to have all students kindergarten through sixth grade in one building.
“It would make it easier to make school improvements and keep students unified,” she said. “It allows the administrators to see the consistency of programs and see the areas where we need to improve.”
Ward says the response to the renewal request has been positive so far.
“The consensus we are getting is that a lot of people are in favor,” he said. “It is keeping that monument in town, and you are not seeing a tax increase.”
Ward says the committee will hold a series of town hall meetings in January and February so everyone can get the full details on the project.
“We welcome any and all input,” Ward said. “We encourage them to make it a point to come to the town hall meetings and learn about it in full. The last two milllages the people didn’t feel they had enough information to make an educated vote.”
Questions about the project can be directed to rangerpride@path waynet.com.
More information can be found at: www.rangerprideproject.com.