BY MELANIE YOUNG
The Trenton Public Schools Board of Education last month voted unanimously to ask residents to approve a $56.9 million bond proposal in a special election that is expected to be held May 8.
“The bond proposal will affect every Trenton student and every Trenton school facility,” Superintendent Rodney Wakeham said in a press release issue right before the Christmas break. “It will provide for remodeling and upgrades to existing schools, construction of additional kindergarten classrooms at both elementary schools, more instructional technology for students, enhancement of classrooms and physical education and athletic facilities at Trenton High School, and construction of a new facilities/maintenance building.”
The 3.7 mill proposal will cost a person living in a $100,000 about $185 additional each year.
In December, the Trenton Public School district held a series of forums to gauge residents’ views on the possibility of a school bond issue. The forums offered a look at the work the district has done to assess each building and property the district owns and plans to update them.
The forums were led by Wakeham and held Dec. 4-6 at three different district schools. The 90-minute meetings consisted of a PowerPoint presentation and a question-and-answer session. Attendees were also asked to complete a survey about the proposal. The meetings were well attended.
Wakeham explained to the crowd that the district had spent the past year evaluating its facilities and program priorities with the help of construction managers and architects. According to Wakeham, this was a comprehensive evaluation. “We left no stone unturned,” he said. “The district looked at things not replaced with the last bond in 2007.”
The district is considering a bond proposal for four reasons. The first reason is to create additional teaching space. Prior to the bond in 2007, a published report stated the projected number of students in the district in 2017 was 2,194. There are currently 2,587 students. There are approximately 500 students in each elementary, which is 300 more than projected. In fact, the elementary buildings are currently operating at room capacity. The bond will allow the district to remodel and recreate to add additional teaching space.
The second reason is to remodel and upgrade school facilities to provide a 21st century learning experience. According to Wakeham, all of the buildings are using gyms, art and music rooms that were built in 1955. Schools must adapt to the current way of teaching and learning.
The third reason is to upgrade, replace and add new curriculum, technology and technology infrastructure. The fourth reason is to improve school sites, including playgrounds, parking lots and athletic facilities. The athletic facilities are used not only by student athletes but also by community groups such as the Trenton Baseball Association and Rush Soccer.
Wakeham listed the items in each building that would be repaired, replaced with something new or repurposed. Most buildings need sections of the roof restored and new boilers. Most boilers are 30 years old and parts to repair them are obsolete. Parking lots were also common to most buildings, as were upgrades to electrical systems, HVAC/mechanical, kitchens and restrooms.
In the elementary schools, the big replacement project would be to build new additions that would house a gym/cafeteria/music room combination. It would include a room divider so that the area could be used for multiple activities at once. A stage would be built to house the music classes. New kindergarten classes would also be built. In turn, areas previously used for gyms and kitchens would be repurposed into maker spaces and space for special education services.
At Arthurs Middle School, major projects include replacement of the the elevator built in 1970, and the B loft lockers. Remodeling the band room and upgrading the kiln were also listed.
Trenton High School projects include replacement of baseball and softball bleachers, scoreboards, and the marquee sign. Other items include installation of a north-south walkway in the athletic complex, upgrading the auto lab, and replacement of the perimeter fencing.
Also included is construction of a new eight-lane pool with a regulation 13-foot diving well. The current pool is 60 years old. Wakeham also indicated that the current diving well is only 10 feet deep and is a safety hazard. The pool would also be ADA accessible, allowing for more community usage.
Also on the list is replacement of the synthetic track, installation of a multi-use turf surface in Farrer Stadium and upgrade of the stadium lighting. Wakeham explained that the current lighting is poor. It has seven poles that are at least 50 years old. They would be replaced with four metal poles with LED lighting.
The service building would need upgrades.
Those in attendance seemed overwhelmingly positive about the proposal. Jack Eggleston, a 35-year resident of Trenton, was pleased with the presentation.
“I like how it’s put together. Even if it costs $300 a year, my property value would go up,” he said.
School board member Thomas Kinney was in attendance and brought attention to the number of mills neighboring communities pay for school debt.
“Some districts are double or triple what we pay. All districts around us are looking to be strong for the future,” he said.
City Council member William LeFevre was attending his second forum of the week. He said he really believed in it. “It’s a small price to pay for an investment made in my home, school system and students. It’s really no-brainer to me.”
Trenton City Clerk Debra Devitt also liked what she heard. “You have to have attractive schools to attract young families. Everyone has so much pride in Trenton. We need more space for the younger families that are starting to buy in Trenton.”
One attendee agreed and made the comment, “It’s the responsibility of the community to invest in the schools.”
Following the community forums the board and administration held a workshop to go over responses from the surveys and make the final decision on the bond proposal. Following the board vote the district submitted every project included to the Michigan Department of Treasury for approval. If the bond is approved by voters, projects will begin as soon as possible with as little disruption as possible to students, officials said. Many will be done during the summer months of 2019.
For more information about the bond proposal, contact Wakeham at email@example.com.