BLISSFIELD — Blissfield Community Schools plans to make renovations and create new facilities to encourage a safer and more exciting environment.
A community forum took place Tuesday night regarding the vision for the facilities. Introduced at the forum were Mike Galovan and Shawn Parshall from TowerPinkster, an architectural engineering firm with offices in Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, who are consulting on the project. Also introduced at the forum was Todd McDonald from project management firm CSM Group, also of Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, serving as the construction manager for the project, and Scott Abbott, who is the operations director.
The team for the project went to the elementary, middle and high school to construct a list of recommendations for improvements. They used a “like-new” comparison model to create the list. For instance, when looking at the flooring, they compare it to what would be considered like-new flooring, and if it compares on a poor level, it goes on the list.
“This is beyond just, ‘Hey, we have to fix up a window or fix up this piece of equipment.’ This is kind of putting a little bit more of that dreamer hat on and, you know, looking at our district for the next 15-20 years, where do we want to go,” Parshall said.
Blissfield Community Schools Superintendent Scott Riley said they want to create a “destination district.” The goal is to create an environment where visitors and community members are excited and impressed by not only the education and services, but also the facilities.
“We want to create a learning environment that the kids are excited about, that the staff is excited about,” Riley said.
They also talked to focus groups to get more input and suggestions. These focus groups included input from the elementary, middle and high schools, athletics, fine arts, parent organizations, transportation and maintenance, and food service.
There were six pages of recommendations for the elementary school. The top recommendations were: new roofing, building-wide cooling systems, installing LED lighting, and installing new ceilings and flooring, among others. Additionally, it was recommended to change the main office location to create more of a direct flow and for safety precautions, so that office staff can better watch who is coming into the building. If they took that route, it was suggested to turn the current main office area into a space for itinerant staff and a space to meet. It was recommended to add two to four classrooms and have a separate gymnasium and cafeteria, as currently they are combined.
The top recommendations for the middle school were to install LED lighting, replace exterior wall panels, replace doors and hardware, replace flooring, renovate toilet rooms, put tile over the interior concrete wall panels, allow more daylight into the interior spaces, replace audio/video systems within the classrooms, install new ceilings, and replace the electrical panels and feeders. Like the elementary school, they suggested changing the main office location. Also recommended was creating a canopy for the main entrance and renovating the media center. They are additionally considering creating a STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts, math — addition to help support Project Lead the Way.
The high school also had quite a few recommendations for improvement: new roofing, install cooling systems, create a new parking system and lot, install LED lighting, replace ceilings and flooring, install new doors and hardware, replace heating and cooling controls, renovate toilet rooms, and renovate the kitchen. They suggested also adding two to four classrooms as well as renovating the office space. They discussed the importance of adding more space for music, art, robotics and e-sports and a performing arts center. Renovating the media center, locker rooms and training room was suggested, along with creating a space for students to collaborate and creating an auxiliary gymnasium.
The funding for the facility renovations would come from a variety of sources. These include the state foundation allowance, which provides general fund expenses, the district’s operating millage, the voter-approved sinking-fund millage and a voter-approved bond. Currently, Blissfield schools has zero debt millage for 2021 and 1.75 mills for the 2021 sinking-fund millage.
Three community forums regarding the facility renovations are planned, but more could be scheduled if needed. Riley said they want to be as transparent as possible with the community about these renovations and the costs.