Bear Lake Schools look at building improvements

BEAR LAKE — When the Bear Lake Board of Education and administration asked the voters to approve a zero mill bond proposal in the spring of 2016 it was done so with the bear-lake-lakers-200x167promise of being good stewards of those tax dollars.

Since that time district officials have done everything they promised in a fiscally responsible manner by fixing the school roof, doing technology upgrades and purchasing a new bus. All of those were done so efficiently that the district has funds left over that the board and administration are looking at using to make additional needed improvements to the campus.

Superintendent Marlen Cordes outlined for the board of education this week the type of things they are looking at repairing at this time.

“Our zero mill request generated around $750,000 and we used about $380,000 for our roof, so we are looking at doing some other things,” said Cordes. “The first one is for boiler controls and valves and we got bids for it.”

Cordes said the bid they received from Havel Company was the most affordable and would work best with their system.

“I would like to get that bid locked in before it goes up,” said Cordes. “The bid is for $17,000.”

Board members agreed and approved that measure by a 7-0 vote this week.

Cordes said they also looked at the possible need for upgrades and improvements to the fire alarm system.

“I had Simplex Grinnell come in, who have done a lot of fire systems in the area, and they didn’t feel there was a anything wrong with our fire system,” said Cordes. “I had Gary Buren who is our contractor, look at it along with the person who installed it look at it and they didn’t think anything was wrong with it. So my recommendation is to continue with the system we have as it is working and they don’t need replacement.”

However, he said there are a few things they are going to work on and replace with the system one being an auto call  that will contact an administrator if there is a problem. They also are going to replace some of the sensors in the duct work that will eliminate the false alarms they have been getting.

The third was a need to refurbish the lower gym floor which Cordes said long time school officials don’t recall it ever being done since it was constructed 53 years ago in 1965.

“The quote that we have to put the new border all the way around the gym, a new logo at center court, three foot letters that spell out Lakers on each end, to redo the entire floor is about $12,300 which is within our budget as we were thinking it would cost around $18,000,” said Cordes.

Cordes recommended holding off on taking any action because there are several other minor issues in that gym.

“There are some issues on the far end with some boards when the roof leaked and we are going to talk with the insurance company about that and in the upper gym as well,” he said.

Next week Cordes plans to meet with the bleacher company to get a price to replace the wooden bleachers in the lower gym that were original to the structure. There has been some issues with them not working after 53 years of service and that gym is still used for graduation, Veteran’s Day and other gatherings because of the stage.

“we are also looking at because some of these lower prices is two new baskets on the sides and it will make the gym look pretty sharp,” said Cordes.

Another item they are looking at is a new sign to replace the one on the side of the building. It will be an automated scrolling sign.

“What we are looking at something six or seven feet long and three feet high, and we would put it right where the current letter one is that we have to do manually,” said Cordes. “That also is right in our budget and we are looking at a few other projects as things are coming in cheaper than we anticipated.”

Other things that Cordes brought before the board at Wednesday’s was a report on Manistee Intermediate School District General Education director Kay Salyer’s position with the district. Bear Lake, Onekama and Kaleva Norman Dickson contract out with Salyer for assistance on a variety of things.

“Kay works for the ISD, but we contract with her for two days a month and when she is here she did some teacher evaluations with (principal) Sarah (Harless),” said Cordes. “That was important here because with only one principal you really want to have two people doing evaluations so there is checks and balances.”

Cordes said she also worked on professional development and school improvement.

“I think it is a valuable position for us and we don’t use her as much as KND or Onekama do,” said Cordes. “I know (Onekama superintendent) Kevin (Hughes) would like to fill that position and it is important, so I am not asking you for anything. Our contribution for paying for that position would be the same and what we would get back would be about the same.”

Board members were also given an update by teacher Jeff Harthun and students Emily and Elizabeth Belinsky on the upcoming senior trip to Washington D.C. and New York City April 12-16. This year 12 of the 24 seniors signed up for the trip.

“They are looking on a date that was earlier in the past,” said Harless. “A lot of them are involved in sports so we were trying to get it in for spring sports.”

Harthun agreed and said that if they had gone at the later date they would probably have half as many because of students having to choose between district sports tournaments and the trip.



Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at

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