MIAMI — It’s not as much a case of wanting to as much as having to with the Miami School District and replacing Will Rogers Middle School.
A $19,030,000 million bond issue will be on the ballot during a special election on May 14 that would radically shuffle the placement of students and allow the construction of additional buildings.
If approved, Proposition 1 would fund an addition and renovation of the current Miami High School building (completed in 1969) so seventh and eighth graders currently at WRMS can be moved there.
A new 22-classroom building at the same location, which would double the current square footage of classroom space, would house grades 9 through 12.
Proposition 2, which is for $1,200,000 would allow the purchase of new buses.
It would result in a 16.5% tax increase, well off the amount that was sought in a 2015 bond issue.
Using the average property tax in Ottawa County of $352, the improvements would cost $3.74 per month.
“We’re under the gun (by the fire marshal) to bring the building up to requirements,” said Jeremy Hogan, Miami Superintendent of Schools.
By addressing the fire code issues, that brings others to non-compliance and would thus force them to be remedied as well, Hogan said.
“It has served its purpose, but it is an old, aging facility,” he said “We really looked at that and said ‘$8.7 million; what can we do to be efficient. We realize we have to do this or can be forced out of the building.”
Part of a 2015 bond issue that was soundly defeated by Miami voters, $3.7 million was allocated to the middle school building.
“It was for the same things we are dealing with now,” Hogan said. “Unfortunately we’ve had new issues come about. Some of the code requirements have changed since then. Construction dollars have changed since then for repairing that facility.”
MPS is well into a 36-month deadline to make the improvements.
A committee made up of Miami community members, teachers, administrators, board members and students, considered two options.
The first, do what is needed to bring the current building, constructed in 1947, up to meet fire codes (a sprinkler system and improved fire alarms) and ADA standards (adding an elevator among other things) as well as electrical, plumbing and other repairs.
The cost to address just those current issues is $8.7 million.
Of they could just start from scratch.
“The committee ultimately decided it was in the best interest in the school district and what we would ask the taxpayers to build a new building,” Hogan said. “It’s an $8.6 million investment that I don't think the taxpayers would be happy with investing that much into an old building.”
Proposition 1 also would fund a new junior high entrance, a safe room that has room for 1,200 students, a new Dog Hut snack bar, expanded cafeteria seating, a new media center, computer lab and other site improvements.
The new high school wing would be two stories built just south of the current high school entrance and west of the Miami Activity Center.
Work at Nichols would include a sixth-grade classroom addition, storm shelter for all students and site improvements.
“We’ve worked on this for a long time,” Hogan said. “We analyzed our facilities data and contracted with Olsson Engineering. They looked at everything: electrical, plumbing, structural issues, roofing — everything you could think of in that facility.”
Hogan said the front half of Will Rogers — everything that has a basement under it that has caused structural issues — would be demolished.
The gymnasium, cafeteria and some of the newer classrooms will be retained.
Hogan said there’s also a possibility that the Miami Academy would be relocated there.
A portion of the historic and unique façade on the front of the middle school will be retained and hopefully implemented into the new building.
Hogan is fearful that if the measure doesn’t pass, students would eventually have to be relocated to portable buildings or relocated elsewhere in Miami — plus the loss of student numbers.
For the first time in eight years MPS has seen a growth in student enrollment numbers.
“That’s been good. Hopefully we continue that,” Hogan said. “If you look at what our assessor is doing with our valuation, we’re seeing a 2% growth every year. If that continues, in about eight years we can come back with a Phase 2 — no tax increase — and look at a few other classroom additions at some of those sites to have more space.
“When this bond issue falls off in 14 years, if it passes, we would come back with a new lower elementary in Phase 3, hopefully with no tax increase at that time.”
A community forum to discuss each proposition has been scheduled for 6:30 p.m. May 7 in the Calcagno Family Ballroom in NEO’s Carter Student Union.
“We are not asking for this because it's a wish-list item,” Hogan said. “We are asking for this because it’s an item of necessity that we have to have for our school system, otherwise we are going to be in a very unpopular position, an unfavorable place about having to make some tough decisions about two years down the road about where to place 500 kids.”
For additional information on the bond issue, go to https://www.miamibond2019.com/.