Hillman examining possible move of elementary school

HILLMAN -Hillman Community Schools Board of Education agreed to move forward with developing a bond project to consolidate the elementary and the iunior/senior high school through the addition of classrooms, technology upgrades and facility upgrades. This bond proposal is set to appear on the February 2015 ballot.

The next step to move forward with pursuing a bond involves the board and building committee going through the facility study previously done by DeVere and Intigrated Designs Incorporated to better categorize projects in order of what it deems most important.

Luke Gerhart and Craig Froggett of DeVere Construction attended the meeting, along with Integrated Designs Inc. Phil Niemi, to answer any questions about the process of going to Treasury for a bond.

Repairs to the elementary building would cost more than what the school can afford, and by consolidating the two buildings, there is projected to be additional savings in energy and heating costs for the district.

“Right now our student population is declining and our expenses are going up,” Superintendent Jason McElrath said. “Right now, tentatively, we’re spending more money than we should on a building that we’re not getting good effective use out of. We feel that by consolidating to one building where we can consolidate services and be more efficient … then that opens up other options. That’s one of the things we’re looking at. I would love to not spend (money) on gas or electricity or heating and be able to put it for the kids.”

The board agreed it wants to start the process and look over the necessary projects and costs to move the elementary and add it on to the high school. The next step in the process will be deciding which projects need to be done, and coming up with a number to propose in October.

“You have the feasibility study that’s done through IDI, now you need to break that down and look at it. What can we afford and what can this community support?” Froggett said.

If Treasury believes that number is feasible based on the community, then it will allow the ballot language for the bond on the Feburary ballot. The board is looking at February because if the bond passes, projects could be started earlier.

“You want to look at the big picture too,” Gerhart said. “Expose all the issues that may be out there and take a look at them and have discussion about them before you decide where you want to be dollars and cents wise. Nothing is set in stone until you get ready to go to Treasury. That’s when your dollar amounts and your bond issue amounts are set.”

If the board needs more time to go through the studies and look at costs, it can choose to present the bond issue on the May ballot instead of February, which would slow the start of projects until the next year if the bond passed.

“One of the good things about February is that it actually gives you the opportunity to pick away at some projects right away in that first summer, whereas in May, you’re pushed off until the next construction year,” Niemi said.

In other business:

* BP of Hillman was awarded the 2014-15 school year fuel bid at 10 cents over BP cost price.

* the resignations of Sheri Vanderveer as 2019 class adviser, Tammy Thompson as the junior/senior high art teacher, and Debbie Banks as the elementary paraprofessional were accepted with regret.

* the board approved continuing membership with the Michigan High School Athletic Association for the 2014-15 school year.

* concerns were expressed during public comment about the class size of the upcoming third grade, and a senior who was deemed ineligible for graduation.

* there will be a budget hearing June 23 at 6 p.m. in the junior/senior high library, with a special board meeting following at 6:30 p.m.

* the next regular meeting will be July 14 at 7 p.m. in the junior/senior high library,.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.