Central Montcalm school board talks ‘wish list’

By Lori Hansen • Last Updated 10:56 am on Wednesday, March 09, 2016

STANTON — When a boy has some pocket money and walks into a candy store, his eyes light up with delight, dreaming of all he might purchase.

The reality, however, hits, when he realizes the money is only going to go so far, and he is going to have to forego some of the sweet things he wanted.

The Central Montcalm Public School Board of Education, in a more than three-hour special meeting Monday night, was like the boy in the candy store as they perused a “wish list” of the upgrades, changes, renovations and improvements in safety and security at the buildings throughout the district.

“This is just talking points, no decisions have been made,” Superintendent Amy Meinhardt said. “This is a chance to hear feedback from you, things like, ‘this makes sense, and this does not,’ before we present it to the public on Wednesday.”

The district has hired engineers/architects from Tower Pinkster of Grand Rapids to analyze the buildings and campus. The third and final community forum meeting is 6:30 p.m. today in the Middle School cafeteria.

The ongoing community discussion relating to critical needs may be included on an Aug. 2 ballot for voters to consider.

“It’s been fast and furious, and we’ve covered a lot of ground,” Tower Pinkster’s Steve Hoekzema said. “We’ve studied the facilities, we’ve had staff interviews, we’ve had two community dialogues and now we are beginning discussion on the scope of the project and, more specifically, the cost.”

Hoekzema and associates presented breaking the project into two phases, one with initial work being completed this year and the second phase being completed in 2020.

The board has emphasized the main aspects are safety and security issues, necessary infrastructure improvements and safe traffic flow/parking concerns. Proposed suggestions to address this include relocating building offices, adding additional parking and restructuring current drives and parking lots with shifts in bus drop-off and parental drop-off points.

Along with that, is proposed an additional second drive on M-66, north of the current drive to the campus.

Hoekzema reassured the board that a representative from the Michigan Department of Transportation will also attend today’s forum to answer questions pertaining to the proposed second drive.

The board then went over individual line items pertaining to each of the district’s buildings, discussing various reasons why the item should be a Phase 1 or Phase 2 item.

“But do we have the funding to cover the cost of everything,” questioned Board Secretary Bill Collins, “even without the bells and whistles?”

Different financial scenarios were discussed, emphasizing the need to maintain, but not raise, the current mills.

“What can we take out (Phase 1) to accomplish the other (necessary) line items?” Trustee Mark Grossbauer asked.

“It’s a matter of choosing ‘needs’ over ‘wants,’” Collins said.

The lower elementary building in Sheridan also came under scrutiny as board members analyzed if all the proposed changes — relocation of the office with more security, revamped bus drop-off, proposed parent drop-off/parking — had to be done this year, or if any could be delayed until 2020.

“My thoughts are if you only do part of it at the lower elementary, you are making security worse,” Vice President Todd Giles said. “This would have kids from buses coming in one entrance and kids that are dropped off coming in another entrance.”

Lower Elementary School Principal Wilberta Wittkopp said that currently parents of preschoolers must enter the building to sign their students in.

“They have to come into the building,” she said. “We might have to think on how we are going to do that…”

“My view is that you, the school principals, live in those buildings, and have your own concerns about safety and security, and traffic flow and parking,” Meinhardt said. “What are your preferences?”

“I cringe every day,” High School Principal Marty James said. “The traffic problem is huge.”

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