18 Feb Jonathan Cartu Announced Voters in Ferndale school district to decide $125 million…
The current Ferndale Lower Elementary School, pictured would serve as CASA’s new home and would receive renovations, including to its classrooms, so it can be retrofitted for its students’ needs.
FERNDALE — There is less than a month until the March 10 primary election, and a notable local issue will be on the ballot for Ferndale Public Schools.
The district has put on the ballot a $124.8 million bond vote to fund major projects and for renovations to be done at various schools.
The construction would be completed in three phases starting in 2020, 2023 and 2026, respectively. The bond work is projected to be completed in 2029.
If passed, the bond would yield the nearly $125 million to Ferndale Public Schools across the three phases. In 2020, the district would receive $53 million; in 2023, it would get $35.5 million; and in 2026, the district would get $36 million.
According to the district, there is not a projected tax rate increase to come with the bond. Director of Communications and Pupil Services Bill Good said in a text that other bonds are falling off the district’s books, so this bond, if passed, would replace those.
Ferndale Public Schools Superintendent Dania Bazzi believes that approving the bond is important so the project funds can be used to provide students with opportunities and learning environments the district otherwise isn’t able to provide now.
“Our current infrastructure’s good, but we’re trying to do capital improvements that enhance what we’re currently providing,” she said. “We’re always striving to do more.”
Bazzi said the plan for the bond is a result of work conducted by a bond committee with community members, parents and staff who put together a proposal to address many of the needs within the district.
“They worked really hard to ensure that the voice of the community is seen within this plan,” she said. “This is not something the district did in isolation. We had a citizens bond committee that met regularly, that met with the architects, construction management firm, to do the best we can.”
At Ferndale Middle and High schools, phase one would consist of removing one of the two swimming pools and replacing it with a fitness center.
Phase two would see construction of a secure entryway for the schools; replacement of the classroom heating, ventilation and cooling systems; upgrades to the building envelope and roof; improvements to the electrical system and domestic water system; new doors; a new entryway for the gyms and pool area; kitchen upgrades; and interior renovations.
Phase three would include auditorium upgrades and parking lot repairs.
The two schools also would see improvements in the band and art rooms, as well as construction of new tennis courts and baseball and softball fields. The athletic stadium — used for football, soccer and track — would get a new playing surface, updated bathroom facilities and an updated concessions area. These elements would be completed as part of phase three.
University High School, in phase one, would update walls and carpets as needed and install collaborative learning furniture. In phase two, the school would receive a building expansion in the form of a conference room, health room and more. Phase three would update the parking lot and remove the playground to make room for additional parking.
The Tri-County Educational Center only would be a part of phase one, where it would receive an updated electrical system. Work also would be done to replace the roof, boiler and ventilation and to reskin the exterior of the building.
The Ferndale Early Childhood Center would have a secure entryway built in phase one and a toilet added for each classroom in phase two. Phase three would include the addition of collaborative learning furniture, interior finish updates, a new gym floor and an updated playground. In addition to these updates, the center would get facility maintenance in the form of new boilers, an electrical update, and building envelope and exterior improvements.
Ferndale Upper Elementary School would be involved in phases one and three. In the first phase, the school would receive a secure entryway, an updated playground, a new roof and improved bathrooms. In phase three, a STEAM Lab would be constructed, and collaborative learning furniture would be placed in classrooms; STEAM stands for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
Bazzi felt the bond would have an impact on three main areas: reimagining the classrooms, safety and security, and infrastructure updates.
“All three of those things complement one another and are really necessary,” she said. “They’re capital improvements that really can enhance the learning experience for our students.”
Ferndale Lower Elementary School could be on the verge of a dramatic change if the bond is approved. Funding from the bond would be used to construct a new K-2 school building at the site currently used by the Center for Advanced Studies and the Arts.
As for CASA itself, the school would move into the building that the Lower Elementary School currently is using. After roofing and masonry updates as part of phase one, the Lower Elementary School would then receive updates to convert it for CASA’s purposes. Those updates would include additional parking, an upgraded gym for a dance studio and adapting the K-2 classrooms to be science classrooms.
“There would be infrastructure updates, like routine mechanicals, because of the building’s age,” Bazzi said. “The building is roughly 100 years old, and then there would be some classroom improvements, but minimal.”
CASA Director Jennifer Pye Gebbie said the school is excited about the possible location change, as she sees a lot of potential in the new building.
“We could use more classrooms so that we could provide more opportunities for our students and just a broader range of classes that we can offer them, or maybe add more sections of the classes that we already teach,” she said.
Gebbie also said the current Lower Elementary School has a much larger square footage, so it has many possibilities for it to be used and shaped for the benefit of the students.
“We use every single classroom in (our current) building, and so we don’t have any wiggle room,” she said. “We don’t have any flexible learning spaces, really. Being able to move to that building would really enhance our program.”
For more information on the bond and the potential updates that each school would receive, visit www.ferndaleforward.com.