Edwardsburg to host final bond proposal open house Monday

Published 5:37 pm Friday, May 3, 2024

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EDWARDSBURG — The final community open house for the Edwardsburg Public School’s zero millage increase bond proposal will be held at 5 p.m. Monday, May 6 at the former church property at 27341 U.S. 12.

The district is pursuing a zero mill bond proposal that will be brought before the community on May 7 and is inviting parents and community members to attend the open house to ask questions and to be informed regarding the district’s needs. 

“We’re cautiously optimistic that the community realizes that this is truly a need-based bond,” said Superintendent Dr. Courtney Szucs. “I feel like even the people who are coming with questions and maybe aren’t sure of what their feelings are towards the school have left and felt that their voice has been heard and that their questions have been answered. We’ve had some people reach out then afterwards with clarifying questions, which I think is great.

“I want interactive, open, honest communication because the hard part is when you don’t know what people are looking for or needing so that they’re informed.”

The bond would allow the district to sell bonds and generate approximately $24.4 million with a zero-mill net increase over the current tax rate of 2.85 mills. As the name suggests, the 21-year bond would not raise taxes.

“I do let people know, I’m not asking you for nothing,” Dr. Szucs said. “I am asking you to continue to pay but if you’re okay paying that, this is what continuing to pay that will get us and basically it will stabilize us and will give our students better, safer buildings to be in.”

The last bond proposals brought to the Edwardsburg Schools district voters were a pair of failed elections in August and November of 2022.  Prior to that, the last successful bond proposal was approved by voters in September of 2001.

The safety of children in district buildings and classrooms has been a key component of the bond process. Secure vestibules, office renovations and campus traffic pattern and circulation upgrades were among the proposed measures to ensure safety. Due to the size and scale of school buildings, maintenance, updates, and replacement of facilities is costly and often not possible through the traditional funding received by school districts.  Because of this, district leaders believe the bond proposal is the best approach to making the significant updates and improvements needed at EPS.

Some of the other projects included in the potential bond proposal are as follows:

  • Primary School – Improve safety and security with a secure entry vestibule, a new parent traffic pattern, and fire alarm system upgrades.
  • Eagle Lake Elementary – Add secure entry vestibule, replace aging classroom finishes such as flooring, update fire alarm systems, and renovate restrooms.
  • Intermediate School – Renovate existing entry and front office to improve safety and security, upgrade mechanical and electrical systems, including fire alarm systems, and reconfigure parent traffic patterns.
  • New Learning Center – Renovate former church to create space for additional education needs.
  • Middle School – Provide secure vestibule with direct access to secure office area, remodel of existing main entry, replace interior doors, some roofing replacements, improve ventilation, and upgrade mechanical and electrical systems, including the fire alarm system.
  • High School – Prioritize safety and security with the addition of a secure vestibule and office area, remodel cafeteria, substantial roofing replacements, improve ventilation, and upgrade mechanical and electrical systems, including the fire alarm system.

“Without this bond, these are the areas where we’re going to really struggle in,” Dr. Szucs said. “We’re going to struggle with maintaining constant airflow of our buildings without dedicating a large portion of the budget towards updating that. Our traffic flow is not as safe as it should be, that would take a lot. The church property, which was purchased before I got here, to let it sit doesn’t do anyone any good. Even those who disagreed with the purchase, we own it now and selling it wouldn’t be a big money maker for the district but it’s such a great opportunity to meet some of those needs that we have in the district like alternative education and having them have a better home to be in. 

“I was just meeting with that group of kids this morning and they deserve to have a place that they really feel proud of and is conducive to Learning and that idea of before and after care or whatever other things that we haven’t been able to meet the needs of.”

If the bond is not approved by voters, district administration and the Board of Education will determine the next steps and reevaluate the district’s needs and finances.

“I hope that the community then sees that we really trust them and their decision because we’re providing just the information,” Dr. Szucs said. “We’re not trying to sway them one way or the other but that they’re also willing to see what the true needs of this district are. I think sometimes people think we have everything we need because we do have such amazing outcomes for our kids but at some point you do have to take care of your buildings and facilities just like you would your home and we’re to that point.”

Dr. Szucs is looking forward to meeting with stakeholders Monday at the open house. 

“I hope community members out there who still have some questions are willing to reach out,” Dr. Szucs. “I want to build that trust, I want them to see we’re not hiding anything and I want them to be willing to ask those tough questions. If this bond is to pass, we will make sure to follow up with the community and keep them informed throughout the bond process so they know that we will do exactly what we said we would do. We want to be good stewards of what they give us if they choose to give it to us.”