School building mulled in Gwinn

GWINN – The Gwinn Area Community Schools board of education will vote on a new building configuration at its meeting tonight, possibly laying the groundwork for a new, $23 million all-inclusive teaching complex.

The meeting is scheduled to take place at 6:30 p.m. in the Gwinn High School library.

“This is an opportunity to give our kids the absolute best that they deserve – a complex that’s state of the art, rivals any other and is something for our community and our kids to be proud of,” said GACS Superintendent Kim Tufnell as she addressed the large crowd gathered in the Gwinn High School cafeteria Friday evening during a board of education budget work session.

The district is attempting to dig its way out of a roughly $1 million budget deficit going into next school year.

The board’s finance committee is recommending going to the voters for a bond proposal, which would fund a $23 million addition onto the middle/high school building – just for elementary students.

The addition would allow the district to close both K.I. Sawyer Elementary School and Gilbert Elementary School, saving the district the cost of maintenance, utilities and upkeep required by both buildings.

The new complex would coincide with staff and administrative layoffs along with other cost-saving measures.

Tufnell said the new complex would be attractive to parents outside the district, and said she expects it to bring in more school-of-choice students.

The new configuration the board will vote on tonight keeps only kindergarten and first grade, early childhood developmentally delayed classes and the Marquette County YMCA’s early childhood education program at Sawyer. This would allow the district to shut down roughly three quarters of the building, saving on utility costs.

The configuration would remain this way through construction of the proposed complex.

Tufnell said the finance committee also looked at other options before deciding to recommend the $23 million project.

She said Gilbert Elementary is the “worst” building in the district, and that an addition onto the building to make it big enough for all the district’s elementary students – along with required maintenance projects – would cost roughly $15 million.

A similar addition and needed upkeep projects at Sawyer would cost roughly $10 million, Tufnell said.

“And to do this one, big, huge complex, state of the art, with everything right here, roughly $23 million,” Tufnell said. “But we’re done. And we don’t have to do it again.”

Once the complex was finished, the district would close both the Sawyer and Gilbert schools.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.