By Jim Newell
The Lake Orion Community Schools Board of Education is still considering a bond proposal to update facilities and school safety features, enhance programming and add new classrooms to existing buildings.
The school board held a workshop meeting on May 9 to hear about the details of a potential bond and long-term facilities plan. While board members did not make a decision during the workshop, the district did schedule a special meeting on Tuesday after press time to discuss the bond proposal.
The school district is working with GMB Architecture + Engineering, a firm that specializes in pre-bond surveys, facilities assessment and bond preparation.
The initial proposal: $177,533,982. However, district administrators, engineers and school board members know that $177 million represents an ideal number to address the district’s “critical needs” and that they will have to trim that number down before sending the bond proposal to voters. General consensus during the meeting hovered around the $160 million mark.
If the board does decide to pursue a bond proposal, it would go before voters in Nov. 6 general election.
“Really, there has not been a successful bond proposal since 2002,” Superintendent Marion Ginopolis said during the workshop.
Orion voters passed a 2-mill sinking fund in August 2016 that is anticipated to generate approximately $3.5 million annually over the next 10 years. District administrators have said that a bond would cover improvements not addressed by the sinking fund.
“One of our goals was that we were going to be as transparent as possible,” Ginopolis said. “It’s time to really look at some major structural and facility issues that we need to look at. Some decision that we make today will have an impact on the rest of the decisions.”
Brad Hemmes and Tom VanDeGriend of GMB presented the Lake Orion Community Schools 2018 Long Term Facilities Plan – the list of potential items for a bond proposal – during the school board workshop.
“We’ve been working on developing a 10-year plan for the district, a master plan, if you will,” Hemmes told the school board.
“Operational efficiency and extend useful life (of facilities) are a fair amount of the bond,” VanDeGriend said. “We’re trying to recommend, at this point, things that are reasonable but not over-the-top.”
School safety security and extending the useful life of the buildings and facilities are high on the district’s needs list, they said.
The district looked at the community survey results, feedback from building and operational staff and input from the GMB. “We looked at pieces of input from all of the stakeholders,” Ginopolis said.
One of the big issue for parents at the elementary schools is reworking site traffic to provide a better separation of buses and parents dropping off and picking up kids. For instance, there is a proposed new bus loop on the north side of Carpenter Elementary.
Some of the proposed safety and security features include possibly adding doors to building wings that could be locked down to prevent access in the event of a school lockdown or threat.
Blanche Sims Elementary had the highest Phase 1 Critical Needs, with proposed renovations of $18.8 million. Lake Orion High School was $15.3 million; Webber Elementary was $13.3 million; and building a new Early Childhood Center next to Orion Oaks Elementary was proposed for $11.8 million.
The full 2018 Long Term Facilities Plan for Lake Orion Community Schools is available on the district website in the Board of Education May 9, 2018 workshop agenda documents.
The plan also includes building a new science and STEM lab at the elementary schools in the $396,000 range, and adding new additions to the buildings for additional classrooms. For instance, the proposal includes three classrooms at Orion Oaks for $957,000.
The biggest proposed renovations would be at the Community Education Resource Center (CERC) and Blanche Sims.
The bond proposal includes more than $14 million for a new addition at Blanche Sims, demolishing 75-80 percent of the building and constructing a new academic area.
“We’re taking almost all of the academic areas off,” Hemmes said. “It’s really exciting. From my perspective it’s a huge transformation.”
The engineers said the school was past its useful life and it would be necessary to “reset Blanche Sims” to extend its useful life for decades to come.
“It’s a tough sell,” said Trustee Bill Holt.
At the CERC building, the proposal was to remove the north half of the building, demolishing the gym, the cafeteria, the library and some classrooms and the office where the Orion Area Youth Assistance is located.
Hemmes and VanDeGriend said removing half of the CERC building would help with traffic congestion on Stadium Drive.
Board President Scott Taylor said the district would save on cost avoidance by not having to make repairs at the CERC building.
Programs currently housed at the building would be relocated.
“We have an abundance of classrooms available throughout the district that can be used for community education classes,” said Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Rick Arnett.
The complete list of renovations at the CERC totaled more than $15.6 million.
By Jim Newell