Community invited to tour Dowagiac schools

Published 7:38 am Friday, January 17, 2014

Over the next several weeks, local parents will be able to get a first-hand look at the very same rooms and hallways their children see everyday, and even some they don’t.

The Dowagiac Union School district will be hosting tours of each of its five buildings, beginning with a walkthrough of Dowagiac Middle School at 6:15 p.m. Monday. Parents and citizens are encouraged to attend the tour and give feedback on potential improvements to the facility.

Administrators will lead the tour group throughout the school’s hallways, visiting both the academic and mechanical side of the building.

“We want to give a complete view of the school’s total condition,” said Superintendent Mark Daniel.

The tour will take guests on a path through the school’s classrooms, electrical rooms, band and choir rooms, technology rooms, performing arts stage, boiler room, cafeteria, and gym, Daniel said. At the conclusion of the walkthrough, visitors will be given a questionnaire that they can use to list concerns or suggestions.

“We’re looking at ways we can update our buildings,” Daniel said. “We’re looking at ways to enhance their security and ways to enhance our students’ learning experience.”

Daniel and the rest of the district’s leadership have prepared for these tours for more than six months, the superintendent said. The district plans to use the feedback gathered from the walkthroughs to lay the foundation for a strategic plan for future improvements.

“We’re really want to express that we’re opening up the tours to all community members,” Daniel said.

To complement the tours, administrators will be putting together a facility committee over the next several weeks that will be responsible for compiling a list of suggested improvements for approval by the district’s school board.

“We’re looking at contractors, board members, parents, citizens to join this committee,” Daniel said. “They will all want to be a part of this.”

Daniel and other educators have maintained their own wish list of potential additions to the buildings they operate. Besides improvements to the buildings’ roofs and parking lots, Daniel said he has a few specific items he would like to come into fruition, such as an additional roadway entrance to the middle school.

“As good stewards and educators, it’s our obligation to know of these needs and bring those out to the public eye,” Daniel said. “Perhaps the public will see additional needs or have other ideas we can use.”

While the school district has opened its facilities for public viewing in the past, the district failed to provide a venue for public input while developing their $20 million bond proposal in 2012, which was voted down by the city’s residents.

“We want safe and secure buildings, and we want to enhance our learning experience, and if we can make that happen as a community we will be pleased,” Daniel said.

The district will be holding two other tours next month. On Feb. 3, administrators will lead visitors through Union High School, Patrick Hamilton Elementary and Justus Gage Elementary. On Feb. 17, they will lead tours of Kincheloe Elementary and Sister Lakes Elementary. The district will provide buses to ferry guests between the school buildings.

Daniel will also be on hand at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the McDonald’s on M-51 to answer questions about the buildings and the facility committee.