2023 BCS Bond Proposal Interviews and Information
by Rebecka Hoyt, Editor & Photographer
Many of you, in our Buchanan, MI community know about the Buchanan Community Schools (BCS) Bond Proposal Vote coming up May 2, 2023. There are probably others in our community that may not know about it yet, as well as those who need more information on the proposal and its details. School systems often utilize a bond as a way to finance necessary projects. It works like a loan from the state to the school district that the citizens of that district agree to come together to pay off through property tax millage calculations. This is how many communities provide adequate, safe, and accessible school facilities for their students, staff, and community.
Purpose of the project:
Give students modern facilities
Overhaul heating and cooling systems
Boost safety and security
Create purposeful learning and activity spaces
Keep on track with approved district goals
Serve the community by proactively building to function far into the future
During the last couple of weeks, Jen Garry (Publisher) and I sat down with members of the BCS Board of Education, a teacher, some of the administration, as well as the principals of Moccasin Elementary and Buchanan High School, and some of the Bond Proposal Committee to ask questions about the details of the bond. As you read this informative article, you will see facts and history as to why this vote is happening.
For you and us to understand or relate to some of them, we asked if they are alumni of BCS and/or a parent of a BCS student? If so, what year and what grade/school does your child(ren) attend? And what boards/how involved are you with BCS?
Carrie Franklin of the Bond Proposal Committee, is a 1992 BCS graduate, and currently has a Senior and two Sophomores at BHS.
Board of Education member Katie Berry is new to the facilities committee and other committees within the board, is on the Parent Advisory Council, both her husband and her are Buchanan alumni of the classes of 1997 and 1999 (Katie). She has two girls who are a Freshman and a 6th grader.
Harvey Burnett, President of BCS Board of Education, has had his kids attend BCS.
BCS Board of Education Vice President, Ruth Writer started teaching at Buchanan in 1974 as a teacher of adult ed, substitute teacher at BHS, 2 sons from BHS in 1993 and 2000, she’s been on the board since 2012, when her term is up she will have been there for more than half of BCS history. Ruth was involved with the retrofit of the auxiliary gym, gathered history of the BHS for the centennial celebration, and she loves Buchanan while having been around 4-4.5K students.
Principals Michael Babcock of Moccasin and Brian Pruett of BHS, Mark Kurland Director of Operations, Superintendent Patricia Robinson, 2nd grade teacher Lisa Gregory, and Carrie Brunsting of the Business Office were interviewed for this article as well.
What is one or two things that decided for some of these people to be on the executive board for the bond committee?
“My parents passed down their love for Buchanan and being an active participant in volunteering, especially when the schools and children are involved. It’s easy to sit back and wait for change, but it takes people willing to advocate for change to make it happen. My children will be out of the school system by the time the updates are complete. It’s simply about doing what’s right and making Buchanan a better place to live,” stated Carrie Franklin.
Katie Berry says, “I love the community and keep the schools strong, maintaining them and they need some love.”
Ruth Writer told us, “I have been on the bond committee since we came here in 1974 but as a Board of Education member and facilities member, I know all the nooks and crannies at the high school and at Moccasin.”
The goal for this bond
“Is so much more than updating the old buildings. It’s about providing a safe and cultivating environment for our students and staff,” stated Carrie.
“To take care of the infrastructure, the needs, there were some wants in November and now the proposal is really focused on the needs. It is also to attract teachers to be employed here,” said Katie.
BCS Board of Education President Harvey Burnett said, “Upgrades at the high school and at Moccasin are needed projects, for safety, accessibility, and cost of upkeep.”
Ruth Writer states, “Buildings need to be updated, are ready to meet the next generation of students; we haven’t had a major renovation since 1993 – 30 years of technology, HVAC, and windows. Moccasin is as old as I am; we have to be competitive; and for the well-being and safety of the students.”
“Everything in this bond proposal was looked over from our community survey, and we listened to them and focused on the safety and well-being for the students and staff,” as Superintendent Patricia Robinson stated.
BHS Principal Brian Pruett said that “The main entrance and side entrance at the student parking lot can be confusing to visitors who come to the school and want to use the doors on the west side of the school that isn’t always monitored. So, turning that into a safe and monitored area will be nice. As well as having a fitness and wellness center and a common large space for students.”
What are you most excited about for the bond?
Carrie shared, “As I dug in deeper as part of the committee, I’ve heard many people explain their ‘Why’. I knew our schools were in need of repair, but it wasn’t until I heard story after story of their accounts of limitations, work-arounds and safety concerns that I truly understood how badly this bond is needed.”
2nd grade teacher Lisa Gregory states that, “Not all of the outlets in my classroom work and there’s not enough of them, Mr. Place (our tech guy) agrees with me, and I have to use extension cords to accommodate all the other things that need to be plugged in. Also storage is often provided by teachers with their own money as we don’t have much space for storage.”
Director of Operations, Mark Kurland said, “When each student has a chrome book, inevitably they don’t all get charged at home/or on time in the classroom, and then some chrome books need charging all at one time with the need for working outlets to be plugged in, so electrical cords and power strips are also used in the back of rooms where there are a limited amounts of outlets.”
“Grades being back aligned, it served the needs and see the challenges that came with it. The students and the teachers have the needs for today and not when they were built,” said Katie.
“The expense to build new buildings would be way more than upgrading our existing buildings, upgraded educational learning spaces at the high school and in the present day of education, and upgrades of the aging HVAC system. Same with Moccasin, bringing learning spaces and tools into this century, and going back to grade centers and spacing for 2nd – 5th grade to be there. Bring it more to aesthetics to teaching. Feels like a great place to learn and be upgraded. The track to be updated and safety issues when using tracks.” stated Harvey.
Mr. Babcock, principal of Moccasin, says, “There is a need for more spaces for uninterrupted learning that happens one-on-one, the library and music share space, meetings have to happen in our hallways, and even my office is shared space.”
Ruth said from her history of BCS, “Moccasin: realigning back to more traditional grade levels, it has been a decade at least and things are different. HVAC is always a key and nowadays we are more aware of the importance of ventilation; I taught 60 kids in the high school auditorium while students wore hats, coats, gloves, or were sweltering, so this is huge. We’ve managed to get a great bang for our buck with the High School, as we spent $200,000 over 100 years ago (equivalent to $3.2 million today). If we don’t make these changes now it’s going to go up to 300 million. The natural lighting is huge and more of a well-being. Windows were good when we put them in during 1982, but not sure if we did in the 1993 retrofitted. Science wing has not been upgraded since 1963. Added the auxiliary gym in 2004 of the Title 9 movement made due for 30 years, responding to the things that need to be done is a good tradition. ADA did not exist when these buildings were built. And for the health & safety concern of our students.”
Carrie Brunsting of the Business Office states that, “while we have these mechanical repairs to plumbing that is old, we have to pay a higher price for those parts as they are not easily accessible to get as if we were to get new plumbing and needed the repair, the part would be readily available to get and not cost as much as well as using human resources and time for these repairs.” Director of Operations, Mark Kurland says “There are 39 bulbs in the BHS gym that are not LED. Boilers are over 30 years old and most are 25 years max. They are inspected and are working as expected, and all of the HVAC is stamped with ‘93, BHS duct points are not good, some are on the outside wall to freeze 5 – 6 pipes. Air conditioning in the offices are 30 years old. The pipes that burst during winter break this year were only repaired and not replaced.”
A new science lab at BHS will also be more cost effective and be up-to-date to today’s standards so when students take science classes at college, they will know what to expect. “The current faucets need to be replaced, smells come from the current labs out into the hallways due to old plugs and drains,” said Brian Pruett.
Can you explain the work to be done in the BHS auditorium as not many people may understand the extent of it?
Harvey Burnett wants everyone to know that “Not a whole stage will be worked on, but working on seating as it’s older and to be more comfortable; more presentable to what we can afford.”
Ruth Writer told us she taught “4 classes a day 85 minutes a day in one semester, taught law, Steve Bender taught law and combined to be a speech and law class. The classroom to hold 50 students of the seniors (2 classes). Lighting is abysmol, some seats don’t work and haven’t for years, curtains, sound, video. ADA seating in the back for grandparents/others. We need to use it more in an effective way.”
The auditorium is used in many ways: board of education meetings, drama, choir and band concerts, the Miss Buchanan Scholarship Pageant, and speaker presentations. The curtains have definitely fulfilled their duty as they are showing their wear and tear quite easily.
How did a sinkhole develop under the BHS football field?
Ruth Writer gave us a history lesson on this piece of the property: “Property was originally the nursery for Clarke Equipment and was a showplace/farm. In 1947 after WWII a group of mens citizens purchased land from a gardener, 75 years later, what’s underneath it. Drainage has been old, concessions stand in water in 2001, both sides of the bleachers have bad drainage, probably is why the sinkhole developed.”
BHS Principal, Mr. Pruett has also filled in holes with dirt on the field before games are played.
“Maintenance is expensive on that field and wear and tear over time, and we want to maintain the program and to host other cross country and track events.” stated Harvey.
The track is also a concern for safety as it has been coated a couple of times. It is not safe to run on for meets. To have a track meet at BHS, the track needs to be updated.
How much is this bond? And for how long?
“We have 24 years of outstanding have reduced back in bonds in refinancing and a capital project,” stated Harvey.
“34 million $7….20-30 year,” said Ruth Writer.
Will there be a calculator to do an estimate on property taxes for the citizens of Buchanan?
Carrie Franklin did her homework on this as she told us, “I ran 3 scenarios and verified to see the tax impact this would have on Buchanan citizens. I was actually higher than the median income in Buchanan for the scenario of the general citizen. I used $60k income, when I’m told it’s around $43k. And, for disabled and seniors, I used a $100k valued house and $25k income which is a little high for Social Security. As you can see, Disabled will have a $0 impact, and Seniors will only see a $16 dollar estimated annual increase. So, those on fixed income will NOT suffer when the bond passes.”
Katie Berry compares it to the last tax calculator, “This one does a better job to compute what the additional tax will be. We have a new website being launched on March 13, https://www.buchananschools.com/bond-2023/ “.
BCS Board of Education President Harvey Burnett states, “I think it’s reasonable when talking about investment and everyone is different for financial situations people are in. There are some things that we can’t do financially. Have been maintaining responsibility and a thing called aging, and at some point you have to make an investment and upgrading our academic environments and for it to be there for some more time, multi-purpose. Not all desks are in rows, and be adaptable and encourage learning and engagement. Be as fiscally as responsible as possible and meeting the needs of the students with that. Maintaining and running the district for those that come into the future. Haven’t had to go borrow money to make payroll or make ends meet. Doing with what we can with what we have.”
How would you tell someone that doesn’t like change in the grade centers of going from a 2nd – 4th to 2nd – 5th grade level, BMS to go to 6th – 8th and BHS to go to 9th – 12th when it’s been the opposite for a long time and it worked for them way back when?
“All 3 of my children were in the reconfigured grade levels when they were rolled out. In my opinion, it was done when Stark school was closed, and they had to make a decision of where the students would best fit with the remaining buildings. I haven’t talked to one parent that likes the grades split as they are today. I feel that the 8th graders are impacted the most. They can no longer participate in normal Middle School activities such as dances, field trips, etc. They are invited to the High school Homecoming dance, but is that truly appropriate for 8th graders and 12th graders to be comingling at that age? The benefit of advanced 8th graders being able to take upper level classes with the high schoolers only benefits a few. We need to look at the whole picture when determining what is age appropriate. Sure some may be academically ready, but are they truly emotionally and socially ready at the age of 13 or 14?” states Carrie.
“As a parent and 5th & 8th grade; 8th grade being excluded.” Katie Berry voiced.
“Stark closed about 10 years ago. The cost of maintaining the building and technology needs weren’t good. Going to grade centers based on size of student body and more responsible fiscal wise and all teachers together. History of Stark named after someone. Michigan was losing students. Who really likes change, nobody. If you want to push towards growth then you have to deal with change and resiliency. Education and how teaching is delivered has changed. We have to adapt to needs. To learn and engage and be part of a diverse and global community and meet those needs.” explained Harvey Burnett.
Is there a way for a lift chair to be put in at the stairs in Moccasin if no elevator gets in? If not, why?
Ruth Writer stated, “With the grade levels, teachers’ classrooms are being moved from the 2nd floor to the 1st floor to accommodate any students with disabilities; and not just students, having no elevator and multiple floors impacts the rest of the staff, parents, grandparents, and students on both levels in any special classes. Everyone should be able to move throughout the entire building with ease to access the full educational experience.” Moccasin Elementary has three students currently that need additional assistance. One of the students has to leave ten minutes early from a class, to make it to another class and they don’t always get to their next class on time, so they are still losing that valuable learning time. Past teachers have had to move their entire classroom down to the first floor to accommodate students’ needs, which is then hard on them as well as any help they get from custodians, staff and students. Yes, they have adapted and functioned since 1948, but to be ADA compliant and accessible to all who enter the building, an elevator is a necessity.
How many times has BCS voted on getting an elevator in Moccasin and why did it not pass?
“Never had a push for an elevator. We never retrofitted Moccasin. ADA bathrooms are not in Moccasin, there are small bathrooms, people come in with all disabilities and need access to all facilities. BHS was retrofitted with an elevator in the 90’s,” Ruth states.
Will there be multiple tours of Moccasin and BHS? If so, when?
Informational meetings and tours will be April 6 in the Moccasin Elementary gym at 6:00pm; April 20 at the BHS auditorium at 6:00pm “to see the many broken or outdated things for yourself, there are only so many bandages and duct tape you can apply before we’re fixing things are just broken and need replaced. If we don’t make the necessary changes now while we can, then what will happen to the 75 and 100 year old buildings?” said Ruth Writer.
As we closed our interviews with everyone, we asked them if there is anything else that you would like for our community to know that we didn’t ask you.
Carrie Franklin told us, “I highly encourage anyone that voted against the bond in November to examine their ‘Why’ and review the components of this bond which have been altered based on the feedback received. The committee has been working on this referendum since November 9th when the first bond was turned down. They truly listened and adjusted the components accordingly. They did their research, held countless meetings with key stakeholders and are not giving up on fulfilling the needs of our school system. Be an informed voter, come to the informational sessions, tour the existing buildings, run your tax scenario and know the facts before voting No against our school system.”
Katie Berry said, “Buchanan has a perfect sense of community and the schools represent that and a continued sending to school and a sense of pride. Why not build new schools is what’s more beyond and a much larger amount.”
Harvey Burnett says, “We have the best we can offer, and an awesome community. Go VOTE! If you need more information, and want to ask questions it is highly considered to take a risk.”
Lastly, Ruth Writer stated, “This is for all students, all staff, all community. Gyms: Moccasin elementary size gymnasium/recreational hockey/jr bucks basketball, and a new floor in the auxiliary gym, basketballs don’t bounce and there are new floors. Media center on the main floor, safety secure at Moccasin, new cafeteria in place of current cafeteria, not doing turf. First time asking the community for input on a bond. The letter “B herd” listened to the voters and adjusted. Student health and wellness center; Auditorium fine arts minded for those not athletically minded; face lift of paint door similar at the middle school and Ottawa, grade level, Moccasin would get more than half of the bond. Spend the bucks for the Bucks! Personal interaction is so important.”
About Buchanan Community Schools: Public School system for Buchanan, Michigan area. Our vision is to develop responsible, resilient, creative citizens capable of succeeding in a global society.