BELDING — The face of Belding Area Schools appears to have a different look each day that construction continues at the high school and Ellis Elementary School — and even more changes are on the way after various projects have come in “significantly under budget” in recent weeks.
According to school board President Tom Humphreys, bids on future projects such as remodeling the middle school building have come in enough under budget that additional projects have now been given the green light for future construction.
“It’s been that way pretty much across the board,” Humphreys said. “As bad as the economy has been and as concerned as people have been about spending, this was absolutely the right time to do this construction project throughout the district.”
The school board voted unanimously at a special meeting Tuesday to approve bidding for remodeling of the middle school building at $1,343,835.76 to 20 separate contractors.
Originally $3,017,494 in funds was allocated for the remodeling project, leaving a fund balance of $1,480,343.24 to now be used on other various projects, according to Humphreys.
“Right now the contractors are hungry for work,” Humphreys said. “Even though things are picking up, the bids are coming in very lean because construction companies really want the work. It’s a tremendous win for the district.”
The board also approved remodeling the bus garage. The project originally came in over budget, but $49,435 from the middle school fund was transferred to balance the bus garage budget at a total of $156,716 in spending.
According to Superintendent Leslie Mount, the bus garage parking lot is in desperate need of repair.
“The bus garage parking lot was not originally constructed properly and so it is failing,” she said. “Essentially, we are redoing that parking lot so that it will hold up the building and not crumble away.”
Mount said the middle school cafeteria will undergo a significant remodeling process, which will combine the current cafeteria with the drama room, opening up more space for students during lunch period.
“It’s going to be much nicer, as currently it is very cramped in there for the students and is not a very functional space,” she said. “Across the hallway we will create an area, much like a game room, where students can hang out during their lunch period.”
Mount said air conditioning will be added throughout the building, as well as some slight additions to the outdoor play area for students, such as a climbing wall and basketball area.
According to Humphreys, both students and faculty named the cafeteria as the biggest need for remodeling in the building.
“It’s just so small, it is really difficult to get all the kids through there in a timely fashion,” he said. “Knocking out the wall that currently separates the cafeteria and drama area and making it a dual purpose area, it’s going to be really nice for the kids.”
Mount said of all the district buildings being remodeled and upgraded, the least of the $38.8 million bond levy that voters approved in 2010 is being spent on the middle school building because it is the oldest building in the district.
“What the community said originally when we did our survey was that they did not want us to put a lot of money into the middle school building because it is our oldest building and it is landlocked,” she said.
“Someday, way down the road, if we were ever to change anything else, that would be the next building to look at. But right now, we are doing the minimal amount possible. In a classroom setting, everything is functioning very well. The teachers are currently very happy.”
Construction is expected to begin at the middle school once students finish the current school year.
With extra funds available, plans are also in the works to resurface the grass at Rudness Field with turf.
“Part of the reason we are doing that is because, with sod, we had limited use of the field during football season,” Humphreys said. “Between football, soccer and the band all wanting to use the field for practices and other events, it just wore the grass away considerably. Now we will be able to use the field 24/7 without having to worry about wear and tear on the field, as well as maintenance costs of the field going significantly down.”