EPS stakeholders discuss bond proposal for district improvements

Published 8:14 pm Thursday, June 9, 2022

EDWARDSBURG — A local school district is hoping to make significant changes to its infrastructure with the help of its community.

The Edwardsburg Public Schools Board of Education presented its $60 million bond request for district-wide improvements Thursday morning at the EPS Administration Building.

Parents and administrators were on hand for a presentation by Superintendent James Knoll, who broke down the nuts and bolts of the proposal. If approved by voters on Aug. 2, the ballot proposal would allow the district to sell bonds and generate approximately $59.6 million with a 2.5-mill net increase over the current tax rate of 3.4 mills. 

Bond cost chart (Submitted).

 

Edwardsburg Public Schools educates more than 2,700 students who currently attend three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school.

According to Knoll, the 28-year bond would be the district’s first in more than 20 years. If approved, the projects are expected to be fully completed by 2027.

“The upgrades in the district are needed,” he said. “Our students have worked in an environment that’s been a little bit hot. We don’t have air conditioning and security needs to be improved. Our teachers have been wonderful. They’ve fought through the heat and the cold and they’ve done a wonderful job with our students, but they deserve a better environment. If we can do that with passing them on, I think it’ll make a big difference.”

Campus consolidation

A new K-3rd grade building as well as additions to the high school would be the bulk of the bond issue’s proposed scope of work. The proposed new K-3rd building would combine the resources of the current Primary and Eagle Lake schools into a single building while creating what the district hopes will be a more efficient, unified campus. Primary would be demolished and the Eagle Lake property would be sold.

Following significant community input and board deliberation, the board determined that the new building would be located immediately west of the district’s facilities currently on Section Street to create a more efficient, unified, and safe campus for EPS. 

“The biggest difference is that it allows us to replace two buildings that are aging and the amount of money that would cost to improve those buildings outweighs what it would cost to build two new buildings. At this point, we decided to consolidate those to meet another goal which is to have one campus.”

Time for change

According to EPS Assistant Superintendent Carrie McGuire, the initiative to pursue the bond proposal originated from strategic planning that incorporated parents, teachers, students and other stakeholders.

“It’s time for an upgrade, not only in the instructional environment but also in the learning environment,” she said. “It’s hard to learn when you’re hot; it’s hard to learn if you don’t feel secure. It’s time for those upgrades and we have an answer for that. I think our families are ready for that improvement.”

School Board President Birdella Holdread has been a part of the district in one way or another for more than 60 years. A 1965 graduate of EPS, Holdread was a member of Edwardsburg Primary School’s first kindergarten class in 1952. She sees the bond as a vital investment in the Edwardsburg community.

“Even though the primary school is one of my first schools I went into, to see it go down is not a disappointment because it’s inadequate today. (It’s the) same with Eagle Lake, though we’re going to sell [it]. I do realize there is a time and place and some things need to go out and be replaced, and that’s one of them. I’m looking forward to the one campus and the new building.”

A parent’s perspective 

Teachers and administrators are not the only ones pushing the bond proposal. Lindsey Prochko, a mother of three children in the school district, was sporting a “Vote ‘yes’ for EPS” shirt during Thursday’s press conference. Prochko noted the proposed traffic pattern and circulation upgrades as a key reason she supports the bond.

“We love Edwardsburg,” she said. “My kids have done great here, but they’re definitely improvements that need to be made. I spend two hours a day in pick up lines alone shuffling to and from campuses. That’s a huge one for us: getting one single campus and improving pickup lines, for not only our issues in the mornings and afternoons … but safety concerns for the kids running in between cars, streets and things like that. ”

Prochko hopes the community will support the bond proposal with their votes. When asked how she would convince voters to vote “yes,” her response was swift.

“I would say to go sit in the school when it’s 90 degrees, first of all,” she said. “Second of all, your property value is going to increase with the schools maintaining themselves. If we don’t maintain our schools, our property value is going down anyway. ”

School safety

The safety of children in district buildings and classrooms is a key component of the bond proposal. Secure vestibules, office renovations and campus traffic pattern and circulation upgrades were among the measures taken to ensure safety.

“Obviously with what’s going on in Texas and other places around the country, the new K-3 building has to have a very safe and secure portal to get in and out of the building,” Knoll said. “And that’s true of all our buildings. Our middle school, high school and our intermediate buildings will all have upgrades for safety and security, but safety and security isn’t just going in and out of the building. It also has to do with traffic control. It has to do with communication in the classrooms, secure doors and locks and how you get in and out of the building. All of those things are addressed with this.”

Holdread and McGuire believe the new bond will improve safety and security.

“We have nice security setups now, but there’s always room for improvement and that’s what’s going to happen with this bond,” Holdread said. “We’ll make it more secure than it is today.”

“We’ve done some things along the way, including safety film to our windows and things so that we can buy time if there’s ever an intruder situation,” McGuire said. “There’s always more that we can do security-wise, and our buildings are old. We didn’t use to think about security when those buildings were made the way we do now. So, there’s upgrades that need to be made at all levels.”

Prochko looks forward to the increase in safety measures for her children.

“Anyone being able to enter the buildings is kind of like a trust issue,” Prochko said. “You’re asked to go directly to the office but they have open access to go right into the hall and they have to turn and go to the office. So that is a major safety concern that will be addressed.”

Who can vote?

Any registered voter living in the Edwardsburg Public Schools district can vote on the bond. Voting takes place from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 2. To register to vote, you must be a resident for at least 30 days, at least 18 years old, and a citizen of the United States. To find your polling location or information about absentee voting, visit michigan.gov/vote.

To learn more about the bond proposal, visit edwardsburg-bond.com.

Bond project map. (Submitted)

The proposed improvements are as follows, with numbers one through four indicated on the map:

  1. New K-3rd Grade Building
  • Consolidation to Single Campus
  • Separate parent and bus loops
  • Appropriately-sized classrooms
  • Modern, flexible furniture
  • Dedicated specialty classrooms
  • Dedicated gymnasium
  • Dedicated cafeteria
  • Ability for future expansion
  1. Intermediate Building
  • Replace boilers and temperature controls
  1. Edwardsburg Middle School 
  • Secure vestibule and office renovation
  • Renovate auditorium to new classrooms 
  • Roof replacement
  • Replace boilers, mechanical systems, and temperature control (including air conditioning)
  1. Edwardsburg High School
  • Secure vestibule and office renovation
  • Multipurpose room addition
  • Athletic trainer/Health suite addition
  • Career technical education space upgrades
  • Fine arts – practice room/Storage addition
  • Roof replacement
  • Replace boilers, mechanical systems, and

temperature controls (including air conditioning)

  • Tennis court replacement/parking lot expansion 
  • Dedicated cafeteria space
  1. Campus traffic pattern and circulation upgrades
  2. Dedicated practice fields
  3. Demolition of Primary School and sale of Eagle Lake property