In the words of the indomitable Tom Petty, we’re “runnin’ down the dream” here in Clare. The summer was a very busy one for the Board of Education: processing May election results, retooling the bond proposal, seeking state approval of the project, and finally authorizing the November 7th election.
Following the May election, the Board took in a great deal of community feedback. Voters told us in large part that they understand the current middle school is no longer appropriate for kids; that we must reduce the cost of the initial project for our voters; that an auditorium should be included but utilizing existing space; and that we need a plan that benefits students at all levels of the district.
Subsequently, we sharpened our pencils and got to work. We met with architects and construction managers asking them to reduce their fees, which led to a change in architects (we are now working with The Collaborative) and a significant reduction in costs. The updated design is more straightforward – a two story building in two wings, connecting all three main campus schools (an added safety & security feature). The project reduces square footage by nearly 30%, achieved primarily through the elimination of extra spaces such as choir, an industrial arts space, auxiliary classrooms, a parking lot, and by converting an existing gymnasium into an auditorium in place of building a brand new stand-alone performing arts center. The Board achieved the restructured plan while prioritizing academic spaces for our students.
Other features of the plan include maintaining and renovating the west wing (5th grade currently) of the middle school for use as primary school or pre-school/early childhood rooms; moving the entrance of the new middle school (current high school) to the north side of the building to improve safety and traffic concerns; and some light remodeling in the current high school to facilitate science classrooms, a 5th grade “pod” of rooms, and an improved experience for middle school students.
The cost of the project to voters would be $49.85 million, a 25% reduction from the May plan and includes a commitment from the Board of Education to utilize up to $4 million of district savings toward the plan. The Board also approved a plan to pay off a portion of the existing debt…reducing the ask of voters by approximately 1 full mill. The request of voters translates to an increase of 4 mills above the 2.8 currently levied.
Information regarding the proposal can be found on our website (www.clare.k12.mi.us) and includes a tax calculator…using your individual taxable value for your home, you can calculate the increase with this tool.
Absentee ballots will be available as early as September 28th, and your polling place can be located by visiting www.michigan.gov/vote.
At 101 years old, the current middle school is a burden on our budget annually, and increasingly so every year. This funnels money away from students and their classrooms to maintain an outdated space. This community, employees, and school board members past and present have a great deal to be proud of in their efforts to steward the 1922 building for so long…but the time has come. Fond memories are wonderful, but they don’t educate today’s and tomorrow’s Pioneers. Strong schools benefit strong communities, just as the inverse is true. As we lead into November 7th, let’s do what all great communities do and leave our district better than we found it for the next generation of Clare Pioneers. Thanks for all you do to make Clare a great place to live and learn!