District begins laying groundwork for facility improvements

Published 9:08 am Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A little over a month after the passage of the district’s $37 million school bonds, plans for how leaders with Dowagiac Union Schools intend to turn their vision into reality are coming into focus.

Senior school leaders and officials in charge of the pending construction project met with building staff and administrators as well as interested parents and citizens last Thursday inside the Dowagiac Union High School media center to kickoff the planning process for the planned renovations to the high school, the four district elementary buildings and Chris Taylor Alumni Field.

Nearly 50 people were in attendance, learning about the initial planning process performed since the passage of the school bonds last month and how the district intends to move forward in the weeks ahead.

Officials in charge of designing and construction for the renovation project
intend to meet with selected representatives from each affected facility over the next several weeks to help develop plans for building improvements, said Union Schools Superintendent Paul Hartsig, who added the impact of these additions will be felt 30 to 40 years from now.

“We want to make sure we do this right,” Hartsig said. “Thirty-seven million dollars is a lot of money, that we’ve been entrusted to invest in the school system, invest in our students, invest in our staff, invest in our parents and community. We want to make sure we go through and get all the ideas that we get, and do everything the best we can.”

Scott Winchester, the lead architect for the project, broke down how the $37.2 million provided to the district through bonds will be spent, with around $32 million devoted just toward construction costs and fees, of which around $22.5 million is ear marked just for remodeling of existing buildings and around $4 million of which is dedicated for construction of the new high school competition gym and facilities for the football stadium. Around $345,000 will be devoted for instructional technology needs, with an additional $345,000 for new furniture. A contingency fund of $1.8 million is also set aside to be distributed throughout construction.

Construction Manager Michael Kounelis provided a preliminary schedule for construction at the various school facilities:

• Dowagiac Union High School — fall 2016 to August 2018

• Sister Lakes/Kincheloe — spring 2017 to fall 2018

• Patrick Hamilton/Justus Gage — spring 2018 to fall 2019

• Chris Taylor Alumni Field — summer of 2018

Some initial work could begin as soon as next summer, Kounelis said.