Shelby schools to break ground on building project.

April 21, 2022

Front view of the future Shelby Elementary School. – GMB Architecture & Engineering

Shelby schools to break ground on building project.

Tiger Pride is a presentation of Shelby Public Schools in partnership with Oceana County Press. 

By Allison Scarbrough, Editor. 

SHELBY — Shelby Public Schools will make $33,000,000 in district-wide improvements, including construction of a new elementary school, beginning this spring.

Voters passed a bond proposal of 3.64 mills last May to fund the project.

“We are just about ready to break ground on the project,” said Superintendent Tim Reeves. A groundbreaking ceremony will take place some time in late May or early June.

A key component is “centralizing all of our learning into one campus,” said Reeves. K-3 students currently attend Thomas Read Elementary, and fourth and fifth grades are housed six miles to the south at New Era Elementary. This creates bussing and scheduling issues. 

In addition to a new elementary school that will be constructed north of the high school, the project includes transitioning the current elementary schools — Thomas Read and New Era — to early childhood and community resources facilities. Also included in the project are renovations to the high school and middle school buildings.

Rear view of the future Shelby Elementary School. GMB Architecture & Engineering

Last June, the architectural company, GMB Architecture & Engineering, put together a team of elementary teachers, administrators, school board members and community members to create a design. The team toured new elementary buildings last summer, such as the new Ludington Elementary School and other schools in the area, during the schematic design process. 

A key aspect of the design are separate pick-up and drop-off locations for buses and parents. Different exits for age levels will ease traffic flow.

The new building will feature separate wings for the elementary age levels, and a “two-tiered” playground will offer separate areas for upper and lower grades. 

The district kitchen, which is currently housed in the middle school, will be located in the new elementary school. It’s more cost-effective to relocate the kitchen in the new building than renovate the existing facility, said Reeves. The school will feature a larger cafeteria, allowing for two lunch periods instead of three as the current elementary school offers.

The new school will have an elementary-sized gym and a main office. Flexible learning areas will provide music and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) instruction rooms. “Any teacher can check those rooms out to use.” 

The project’s expected completion date is fall of 2023, and the move to the new building is anticipated to take place by the end of 2023. Material and labor shortages are causing delays. “We continue to run into some lack of resources. That’s what is driving the start.” Delays have pushed the groundbreaking from April to late May or early June.

In addition to delays, the resource shortages have also caused cost escalation, said Reeves — “more than 20 percent in some areas. We’ve scaled back the project every way that we possibly can to try to save money.”

Although labor and material shortages are challenging, the good news is that the bond issued passed when interest rates were favorable. “When we sold the bonds, interest rates were still really low. We got a good rate for the taxpayers’ investment.”

Bids were awarded in March. “We used local interest wherever it was cost effective.” The Christman Co. based in Grand Rapids is the general contractor. 

Rear view of the future Shelby Elementary School. – GMB Architecture & Engineering

Project details:

New K-5 elementary school: modern school safety measures, new classroom furniture, new educational technology such as audio/visual equipment and projectors and new age-appropriate play areas.

Early childhood center and Thomas Read Elementary: create a secure building entrance, reconfigure existing office, partial demolition of the north wing to improve traffic flow, gymnasium improvements, classroom furniture replacements and parking lot improvements.

New Era Elementary: main building as an educational and community facility, “light” building renovations and parking lot improvements.

Middle school: secure building entrance renovation and new entrance canopy, media center renovations and furniture, new classroom flooring, classroom and office furniture upgrades, technology replacement such as audio/visual equipment and projectors, roof replacement, facade upgrades, new lockers, parking lot improvements.

High school: secure building entrance renovation and new entrance canopy, auditorium upgrades including lighting, sound and seating and adding space for drama production and fine arts group collaboration, classroom, office and media center furniture upgrades, technology replacement such as audio/visual equipment and projectors, parking lot improvements and resurfacing the track.

In addition to serving as the early childhood center, the current Thomas Read building will also be used for the ASPIRE after-school program for all grade levels, said Reeves. Adult and/or post high school learning opportunities will also occur in that building.

Reeves said school staff, students and community members are eager for construction to begin this spring. “We’re super excited about it.”

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