Security first

MARQUETTE – A more secure entrance to Bothwell Middle School will soon be in the works after the project was given the go ahead by the Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education Monday night.

The project was awarded to the lowest bidder – Closner Construction – at $35,120, $16,000 of which will go toward a set of steel doors that could be locked down throughout the school day.

The project will also reroute traffic into the building through the school’s main office. Currently, the main doors open straight into a hallway and people can head into the building without office staff knowing.

“From a security standpoint, you wouldn’t be able to get into the hallway unless you came through the office,” Interim Superintendent Bill Saunders said of the renovation. “I think the longer we wait to have that done, the more risk that we have.”

The board approved the bid in a unanimous vote. Saunders said all work will be done after the school day ends.

The board also spoke about a grade realignment proposal made to the board nearly one month ago by the district’s Strategic Planning Building and Facilities committee.

The district has been struggling with identifying a long-term grade alignment, moving kids from one building to another for the past few years in an effort to free up space at overcrowded schools – namely Superior Hills Elementary School and Bothwell Middle School.

The proposal included using the Graveraet School as a K-5 elementary school and moving the Alternative High School – currently housed at Graveraet – to the Vandenboom Child Development Center, which would displace the Marquette County YMCA’s early childhood education program.

The board has yet to take any action on the proposal.

Mike Angeli, a co-chairman of the Strategic Planning facilities committee, spoke during public comment, imploring the board to keep in mind the amount of work the committee put into formulating its proposal.

“It was by far the best possible solution we could come up with,” Angeli said.

Kristen Cambensy, also a member of the committee, said the board should not consider “outside entities” when making its decision, but should think about MAPS’ students first.

“I don’t think the Marquette Area Public Schools should subsidize one preschool over another,” Cambensy said. “So, I just think you guys should not even take that into consideration. Think about your current students and what is best for them.”

Lisa Coombs-Gerou, executive director of the Y, said her organization had been a good partner for MAPS and that that partnership should continue.

“Even Bill (Saunders) has said the challenge the kindergarten teachers have when they get our kids is that they are so prepared,” Coombs-Gerou said. “They know how to read, they know how to do math problems and they’re ready to go and they know how to use the computers. So, those types of things are very valuable and I think it is an investment from this district in what’s happening.”

Vice President Scott Brogan said he wanted the public to know that even though the board has not taken action yet on a new alignment, that board members are “mulling it over.”

Brogan said he thought options other than what was proposed should be considered, such as selling Vandenboom to the Y and thinking of Sandy Knoll Elementary School and the Graveraet school as one campus.

“At least to me, that sort of alignment would be a lot more palatable than putting kindergarten, first, second, third grade in the Graveraet building,” Brogan said. “You think about the stairs and the restrictions with children going up and down. They can’t go in the basement, they couldn’t go on the second or third floors at all.”

Brogan said though he knew it wasn’t ideal to house the Alternative High School inside Marquette Senior High School, the district may not have other choices.

“The reality is is that we know that this high school is being underutilized right now,” Brogan said. “It has more space than it needs for the student population it has and I think it could very easily accommodate those 100 or so students and we could probably give them a pretty committed area.”

Brogan added that a long-term plan could include renovating the bus garage for the alternative school.

Board President Rich Rossway said he was happy to see the lively discussion taking place in the community over a grade alignment.

“I’m anxious in moving this forward and at some point, sooner than later, we have to come up with that decision, but I certainly do not want to rush to judgment, also understanding that there may be some phasing in,” Rossway said. “It’s not like we’re going to have this great configuration that’s going to work forever because there are going to be other things evolving regarding going to the public for a vote on a millage increase to address some of those longer-term issues that we will have to face as well. So, I really welcome the discussion.”

Board members also said they’d heard many positive comments from the public on the performance of the high school’s marching band.

The marching program has been in flux ever since former band director Matthew Ludwig stopped directing the marching band last year.

The district recently hired a new band director – Joel Robinette – and board members said he was doing a great job.

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