Hart schools to ask voters for building improvement funds

June 10, 2014

The 60-year-old Hart High School building is in desperate need of improvements. District officials are planning to put a bond proposal on the ballot next May.

By Allison Scarbrough. OCP Editor.

HART — An aging high school and an overcrowding elementary school are two issues that need to be addressed in a bond proposal next May.

Hart Public Schools officials want the community’s input, and community groups are being formed to gain feedback. “We need parents’, community members’ and staff input,” said Superintendent Mark Platt. “This is the official kick-off of seeking input from the community and parents to see what they would like see improved,” Platt said.

The school board will make its first decision regarding building improvements during its next regular meeting Monday, June 16. The board will select one of two firms — Owen-Ames-Kimball Co. of Grand Rapids or Wolgast Corporation of Saginaw — to serve as the construction manager.  The meeting is set for 7 p.m. in the district conference room in the administration building. The firm will not be paid for its services unless the bond passes, Platt said.

Renovating the 60-year-old high school is a top priority, Platt said. Adding more classrooms to accommodate the growing enrollment at Spitler Elementary is also a major concern.

There are several other issues that need to be addressed, including athletic needs. However, Platt envisions putting athletic improvements on a separate ballot. The track is in such a poor state that the teams could not host a home meet last season. Lighting at the football field desperately needs to be replaced. The lighting system is so out-dated that bulbs cannot be replaced because they are no longer on the market. Platt said he would like to see “more of an academic-focused bond issue,” however, with athletic needs on separate options. “I need a high school renovation so badly, I don’t want it to go down in flames with athletic issues attached.”

Plumbing and heating/cooling issues are major needs at the high school, the district leader said. New windows are another key need. The gym, weight room and cafeteria were recently upgraded with sinking fund dollars, but the school is still in need of a major facelift.

Spitler elementary needs four classrooms. Title I instruction is currently taking place in the hallway, and there will be no library next year due to overcrowding. The library will become the new computer lab. The current computer lab is a classroom, and classroom space is needed so badly that the computer lab has to be moved.

With no library, students will be making more use of their classroom book supplies as well as visiting the middle school library. “We may partner with the public library,” Platt said. The Hart Public Library is located just a few blocks from the school.

Spitler underwent major renovations and additions a few years ago under a different administration, but the project did not accommodate the elementary school’s growing population.

The need for bond money is critical to making improvements. “If we use the general fund, then we will have to cut programs,” Platt said.

The superintendent knows that the community will not be receptive to an expensive, new high school. He envisions taking care of immediate building needs with the bond. “Nobody wants the Taj Mahal built,” he said.