2018-03-08 / Front Page

School board talks security bond, upgrades

810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

SWARTZ CREEK – The Swartz Creek Board of Education is considering an appeal to the public for funding to improve security at all district facilities.

“There will be a lot of conversations about a bond,” said school board President Carrie Germain. “We need to improve our schools and security for our children.”

A comprehensive facilities study prepared by Flushing-based NJB Architects has identified several measures the board can pursue to make the buildings safer and more efficient, and bring them up to code.

NJB’s report followed a review of “every square inch” of the district “in detail,” according to Superintendent Ben Mainka.

At a public forum Feb. 27, Mainka highlighted NJB’s findings and recommendations, saying school officials are looking at the report through three lenses: what the district is required to do by law, what the district needs to do for safety and efficiency, and what the district can do to be more competitive with other districts of like size.

Security was the dominant theme as parents and other residents questioned the board about how they intend to protect students, particularly in the shadow of a bomb threat, which was unfounded, and rampant rumors about a shooting threat, which also proved to be false.

“I need to sleep at night,” said resident Althea Manigault. “This (discussion of security upgrades) helps me. Circumstances have changed.”

Safety measures could include double-locking doors at all building entrances. Mainka said visitors would enter a foyer before an employee could provide them with access to the building. The system would provide multiple check points and could be locked down to contain a threat, if necessary.

The board is also considering upgrades to the cameras and locking mechanisms. A digital locking device would allow school officials to lock all doors simultaneously. Doors now must be locked individually, with keys.

In addition, a boot device installed on all classroom doors would prevent entry even if the lock were defeated, Mainka said.

Looking beyond active-shooter scenarios, district leaders also are considering some modifications to the grounds to improve safety and ease congestion during high-traffic times.

Energy-efficient lighting fixtures, doors and windows and other investments designed to save money also are under consideration.

The school board is facing some legal obligations to bring the district into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, fire codes and some new building codes, Mainka said. Those changes include widening bathroom stalls and installing ramps, and applying fireproof glazing to doors.

In terms of making the district more competitive, Mainka said the wish list includes increasing student access to technology, updating athletic facilities and installing air conditioning in schools.

The total package would cost the district about $48 million, but Mainka cautioned “that’s not what we’re asking for.” He added, however, that $48 million is a “responsible” estimate.

“It’s half of what we asked for for one building before, and it covers the whole district,” he said, referring to two failed millage requests – for $88 million and $72 million – for a new high school.

If approved a $48 million bond would cost the owner of the average home, worth $148,000, around $250 more per year in property taxes, Mainka said.

Swartz Creek is the only school system in the 22-district Genesee Intermediate School District that does not currently have a bond, he said.

The earliest opportunity to put a request before the voters is November. If that happens, and if it’s approved, construction would begin in January.

School officials already are working on replacing the security cameras at the middle school, and they’re looking into the door boots, which could be purchased with money currently available in the Building and Site fund, Mainka said.

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