School district tries third time for residents’ approval of $24M bonds

By GABRIEL GOODWIN
Sunday Times Newspapers

RIVERVIEW — The five schools in the RIverview Community School District are in need of repairs and the board members were presented with a two-part bond proposal that included “essential repairs to ensure another 20 years” from the buildings.

The costs of implementing the first proposal — which includes security and functionality upgrades — total about $20 million, Supt. Russell Pickell said, and the second proposal — including closing the Riverview Community High School pool and upgrading the pool at Seitz Middle School — would cost about another $4 million.

“We are reaching desperation mode with deciding what to do with the district and its sustainability,” Pickell said. “We want to ensure the maintenance is done on these buildings so we get the next 20 years out of them.”

He said it is important that residents realize the school district has listened to the feedback given after two bond proposals — one proposal in February 2012 for $43.3 and another in August for about $32 million — failed, and the district has scaled its proposals down to the “essential and absolutely necessary repairs” to the schools.

“The residents will have a district in 20 years without a high school, if there aren’t upgrades made soon,” he said. “We are at a level of desperation and have to do something soon with these buildings.”

He said a majority of the upgrades to the five schools — Forest, Huntington and Memorial elementary schools; Seitz; and the high school — are security-orientated, but other upgrades are necessary because of the age of the structures.

If the proposals are accepted, the three elementary schools would receive roof, plumbing and electrical repairs, more secure entrances, and new emergency generator switches. The concrete walkways at Seitz would be replaced, along with upgrades to the entrance canopies. It was also proposed to move the district’s administrative offices from Memorial to the high school.

Most of the money would be used to renovate the high school because Pickell said the building was built in 1956 and the proposed updates are more than necessary. The proposal addresses the need for a more secure entrance into the building, better lighting, a new sprinkler system, replacement of the exterior doors, roof repairs, renovations to first- and second-floor classrooms, upgrades to the media center, and a relocation of the science labs.

“The current science labs are about 900 square feet, he said. “We would like to move those labs into the old shop classrooms because those rooms are more accommodating spaces.”
Pickell said there also is the consideration to update the cafeteria at the high school because it is about one-third of the size it should be.

“We don’t have the room to accommodate the students within that area, so upgrading the size of the cafeteria would allow us to close the campus during lunch,” he said. “The (high school) is one of the last schools in the area with an open campus for lunch.”

The second proposal is aimed at removing the existing pool inside the high school, relocate the office of the athletic director, and create barrier-free restrooms. With the pool closed at the high school, Pickell said the space can be better used once the space is renovated to accommodate a community multi-purpose fitness area. New depth requirements would require both pools to be renovated, he said, instead of updating and maintaining a single pool.

“We really only need one fully functional pool because two pools are not necessary for a district this size,” Pickell said. “With one pool, we can focus on cost savings. But, that is going to be a separate ballot issue.”

When the proposals are finalized, they will have to be sent to the Michigan Treasury Department, which will have 30 days to approve or reject the bond proposals. The bond proposals are planned to reach residents on the November ballot.

The slide presentation is available on the district’s website, www.riverviewschools.com, under the bond information presentation video tab.

(Gabriel Goodwin can be reached at ggoodwin@bewickpublications.com.)

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