District discusses potential fixes to school buildings
Published 8:00 am Thursday, May 21, 2015
The path that the administration of Dowagiac Union Schools will take to improve its aging school facilities became slightly clearer Tuesday night.
The district shared the results of its recent building survey with the members of the community that evening, during a public hearing held inside the Dowagiac Union School library. Among the information the building focus group shared was a pair of suggested bond proposals that could pave the way for a number of critical improvements to the security and cooling needs in the high school and elementary school buildings.
The larger of the two suggested proposals would call for a 2.5 mill increase, raising around $30 million for the district. The committee came up with the proposal based off the survey, which found that nearly 79 percent of respondents would be willing to vote for an increase of 2 or more mills.
“If [a proposal] reasonably reflects the outcome of the survey, and if we have a citizen-led, citizen-based, energetic campaign, there’s a reasonable chance that a bond proposal can be approved,” said Larry Crandall, a former Dowagiac superintendent who has served as a consultant for the project.
The survey, which was issued last month, was filled out by 456 registered voters living the district. Other notable findings from the survey were:
• That an overwhelming majority of respondents felt that safety and security of both the high school and elementary schools should be top priorities for any building renovations.
• A majority of respondents felt that improvements to the buildings’ heating, cooling, lighting and other systems should be a high priority.
• A majority of respondents felt that the high school should be the district’s first priority for any improvements.
Tuesday’s meeting was the penultimate step in the district’s long process to determine a course of action for building renovations. For the past 18 months, the district leaders have solicited feedback from the public on what improvements it would like to see made to the six schools within the district. The survey was just one means of collecting this information; the administration and maintenance crews also led public tours throughout each of the district’s facilities over the past year to give residents an up-close look at their current state.
The committee will host another public meeting on Tuesday, May 26, inside Room 100 of the high school, where they will try to finalize language for a potential bond proposal. The committee will then submit the proposal to the district Board of Education, which will ultimately decide whether or not a proposal will go to district voters in November.
“I think we can do this,” said Superintendent Paul Hartsig. “I really feel like we have an opportunity now to make some lasting improvements that are much needed.”