by Karen Mead-Elford, co-editor
The Owosso School board is calling for a Bond Election to be held on Tuesday, Nov. 7. Voters are being asked to approve a $45 million bond that could lead to consolidation of the middle school and high school campuses. A number of purposes were outlined in recommendations made to the school board by a “diverse community group” formed earlier in 2017 to review the Owosso Public School District. This group (formally called the Facilities Community Exploration Committee) extensively toured different educational facilities in the district, evaluated curriculum needs, gathered information on facility design, investigated related costs, and more, before forwarding their recommendations to the school board.
The group recommended creating a 6th through 12th-grade campus at the current high school location on North Street that is “inclusive but not limited to: separation between middle and high school students; improved career and technical education space; includes a middle school physical education space (gym); includes a multi-purpose performance education space that seats 1,000-plus people in lieu of a full auditorium.”
A plan for limited renovations of all elementary schools, and to allow for “any needed furnishings of the above facilities related to the renovations” was included. These recommendations were submitted to the board at the June 26 meeting. The board then sent the required prequalification application to the state to “assure that the state agreed with the assessment of the group for the identified needs of the district’s facilities.”* The process is now complete and the State is in agreement with the district, so the board is now setting the Bond Millage Proposal for November, with the precise project cost established at $45,873,849.
The back-story of the group created to complete the informational study began when they first met in February 2017. Over a period of five months, they toured the Owosso Middle School, Owosso High School, Bryant, Emerson, Central, and the Owosso Bus Garage. Enormous amounts of data were gathered and discussed that included evaluating itemized reports of every repair made through the sinking fund since 1999. On average, approximately sixty individuals were regularly involved at the meetings.
According to Stephanie Scheid Griffin who served on the recommendations group, “The middle school was of course the most eye opening for me as I had not been in it in 15 years. It is hard not to feel sad, embarrassed, and even a little outraged that our kids have to go to school every day in this facility. The students and staff all just step around the buckets strategically placed to catch the leaks because they’re so use to them.” Scheid Griffin went on to share that she was also surprised to “discover some of the problems the kids and staff deal with on a daily basis at many of our other ‘newer’ buildings.” The problems include cramped classrooms held in basements and portables, to the band and choir being forced to schedule events at the high school due to lack of adequate space.
Scheid Griffin stated that the recommendations group thoroughly “discussed every possible plan of action we could come up with, ranging from doing nothing at all to building a new state-of-the-art high school and/or middle school.” She said they were constantly aware of various reasons voters did not approve the previous proposals and “tried to adjust our plans accordingly.”
“Things like a new bus garage and expanded pool seating, as well as some of the ‘extras’ that were in the auditorium in the previous proposal, were all cut in pursuit of eliminating expense,” Scheid Griffin said. Ultimately, the focus was always on how to best benefit students while being exceedingly attentive of cost.
Scheid Griffin also shared that she had moved back to Owosso “because of the sense of community Owosso has.” She chose Owosso to raise her son because she fully believes the area has so much to offer including “incredible teachers, coaches, administrators, and staff.”
Related information was published in the Sunday, July 9 Independent Newspaper editions and is also available at owossoindependent.com.
(*Source: OPS Board of Education Meeting Agenda for Aug. 14, 2017.)