By Janae Fear, staff writer
Darrick Huff, project manager and Principal with Spicer Group, presented to the Owosso Board of Education at a three-hour Strategic Planning for Facilities Meeting held in the Owosso Middle School gym Monday, Jan. 11. (Independent Photo/JANAE FEAR)
The Owosso Public Schools Board of Education held a strategic planning for facilities meeting, Monday, Jan. 11 in the Owosso Middle School gym. The public was encouraged to attend but the majority of attendees were OPS employees. The purpose of the meeting was to educate the board on district facilities needs and to also give staff some direction on securing bids for future sinking funds work. Also in attendance were Lee Andrea from King Scott Architectural Firm; John Klapko, OPS Operations Director; Jeff Phillips, OHS Principal; Julie Omer, Chief Financial Officer; and Rich Collins, OMS Principal.
Darrick Huff, project manager and Principal with Spicer Group who has worked with the district since 2001 on Sinking Fund and other projects, gave the board a presentation that outlined the history of work done at each building in recent years along with current facility’s needs. Those needs include basic updating of electrical and plumbing systems and items that have had deferred maintenance over the years. The list of needs included Bentley – $220,000, Bryant – $690,000, Central – $570,000, Emerson – $1.02 million, Washington – $640,000, Middle School – $6.28 million and the High School – $5.96 million for a total of over $15 million. The board was challenged with prioritizing this list down to the $1.5 million available from sinking funds this year, with a total of around $6 million over the next four years when the sinking fund millage expires. The board directed Dr. Andrea Tuttle to send out request for proposals for Middle School windows, updating fire alarm systems in all buildings except Central and the High School as they were recently replaced and the Middle School which is currently working sufficiently, the Jerome Street building roof, the Cass Street building roof and to assess and prioritize replacing exterior doors. Dr. Tuttle will secure bids for the listed projects and the board will vote at a later date on which projects will be selected. The district had two failed bond proposals in 2015, a just over $84 million bond in February and a $49 million bond in November. Costs associated with projects can be expected to increase approximately 5% each year due to financial costs and inflation.
There was a lengthy discussion on the current state of the middle school. Principal Collins spoke to the daily challenges of the building mentioning heating issues due to the windows, bathroom issues due to the plumbing, lockers getting stuck due to age, the small cafeteria which means lunch runs from 10:26 a.m. to 12:46 p.m. and the small gym which regularly has two gym classes at the same time. There is a $20 million option to update the middle school which would include a new gym to be built where the current north parking lot is, window replacement, interior renovation, replace plumbing, replace doors and masonry repairs. The $20 million does not include replacing and updating the electrical, repairing and updating the auditorium, repairing the roof, no new classroom space, no on-site outdoor athletic spaces, and does not address the lack of parking that would be created by building a new gym. It would cost between $35 and $40 million to build a new middle school.
OHS Principal Phillips stated that education is very different now than it was when any of the current facilities were built. “It’s not a matter of the number of students – it’s the number of programs. Each of the programs needs the appropriate space. In the 70s and 80s we only offered around 90 programs, today we have over 200. Things like the computer lab did not exist,” said Phillips. He also noted that in the 70s, 18 credits were required to graduate whereas today, 24 credits are required and also that the special education staff has doubled since then.
After the presentation and board discussion, the meeting was opened up to the public. Christian Van Epps, a 2011 OHS graduate and recent Michigan graduate, spoke about how there is no incentive for
him or his generation to come back to Shiawassee County to work and to raise a family. “I have been applying for jobs all over the country but I have not applied for a single one in Shiawassee County. I have no interest in raising a family in a community that doesn’t support the school district,” said Van Epps. Sarah Keyes, who works at Memorial, asked the board to address the rumors regarding split sessions and trailers. Dr. Tuttle stated emphatically that there “has never been a discussion by the board about split sessions or trailers.”
The next Board of Education meeting will be held on Monday, Jan. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Owosso High School Media Center.