(File photo)

Questions remain: Millington school board to decide what goes on ballot

Sinking fund or bond issue?

Millington Community Schools Superintendent Larry Kroswek wants the school board to decide which to put before the voters in May. But he thinks the numbers speak for themselves.

“We need to come to a consensus as to a sinking fund or a bond issue,” Kroswek said. “Right now, I think we are 90 percent toward a sinking fund because a 3-mill sinking fund for 10 years gets us $7.32 million. A 3.75-mill bond issue over 10 years gets us $7.35 million. There is only a $30,000 difference over 10 years. The big difference is three-quarters of a mill” in taxes.

“The other thing,” he said, “is that is a low estimate, a very conservative estimate for how much money that will bring in. The sinking fund really brings in the amount of money and there is a growth rate to it based on the increased value of the property.”

Sinking fund money also has fewer limitations on it.

“You are kind of more narrowly focused with bond money,” Kroswek said, “where with the sinking fund money we have a number of dollars left for other capital projects.”

The board also has to decide whether the money raised by the proposed issue will be used to build 22 new classrooms at Kirk Elementary School or be used to refurbish Meachum Junior High so it can house grades K-5 or K-6. Kroswek prefers the plan to demolish the two-story section of Kirk, refurbish Meachum so it can house the elementary students and then to shift the programs presently at Meachum – the district office, Head Start, early childhood special education, preschool – to the one-floor area of the building, which has the 10 newest classrooms, with the Kirk library turned into a school board meeting room.

While much of the feedback he’s received about the plans has been positive, Kroswek said, some have questioned the size of the classrooms at Meachum, especially when compared to the classrooms at Kirk. In the two-story at Kirk, he said, the classrooms are all 754 square feet. The larger areas might have 800-850 square feet. “The smallest classroom we have at Meachum,” he said, “is 900 square feet and some of the larger ones are 1,050 square feet.”

What makes the classrooms at Kirk special, he said, is the casework that makes the cupboards low, that adds water for fountains, sinks and bathrooms. A lot of the casework in the larger classrooms at Meachum, he said, is built into the wall. It will need to be updated. But there are water lines running under many classrooms, making it easy to create the sinks, fountains and bathrooms needed in elementary classrooms.

“We have to get a mechanical engineer to see about some things underneath,” he said. “When they cut some pipes out, you still have pipes that run from nowhere to nowhere because they just left them instead of taking them out.”

Others, Kroswek said, have questioned spending that much money on a building built in the 1940s. So at a meeting over the Christmas break he showed people photos of Grosse Pointe Academy, which is an 80-year-old school building, and 49 South, a community center placed in a refurbished school in Jackson.

“See, these buildings are old buildings but look inside now,” Kroswek said. “They were all refurbished, so people should have that vision.”

49 South, he said, is so named because it was built in 1949, the same year Meachum was built. “They have the exact same ceramic block lining the walls that we have here in Meachum.” It might not contain the same furniture when refurbished as classrooms, he said, “but this is how it can look.”

He said the building also is very structurally similar on the outside as Meachum.

He said he also was asked what he will tell people when they say they previously were told Meachum was too far gone to be saved.

“I tell people that they never did a truly thorough inspection of the structure,” he said. “And what we needed to have done here at Meachum, to be able to refurbish it, was a real thorough assessment of what we have. And we have done that now.”

All of those plans, however, also need to include grade alignment. Right now, grades K-5 are at Kirk, with grades 6-12 at the high school.

“We need to develop and commit to grade-level configurations,” Kroswek said. “Educationally, I prefer K-5, 6-8 and 9-12. But we need to develop a plan.”

Once all of those details are ironed out, Kroswek said, the staff needs to back the proposal 100 percent. “And our administrative team needs to transition into a true leadership team,” he said, “in order to move our district forward.”

Mark Haney is a staff writer for The Advertiser and can be reached at haney@tcadvertiser.com.

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