MAPS looking at future facility needs

MANISTEE — Sometimes before you can plan where you want to go you have to review where you have been.

One of the things the Manistee Area Public Schools Board of Education has been looking at is 20 year plan to address what to do with their aging facilities.

This week the Manistee Area Public Schools Board of Education held an informal discussion concerning the district. The board reviewed a plan called MAPS 2020 which evaluated where the district has been been in the past 20 years  and focused on facilities where they hope to be 20 years from now in the year 2039.

What makes the discussion valid and necessary is the ages of the current MAPS buildings. Jefferson Elementary constructed in the mid 1950s will be approaching 90 years old in 20 years, while Kennedy Elementary, which was constructed for the start of the 1967-68 school year, will be over 70 years old. Madison Elementary will be approaching 80 years in age by that time.

Even the district’s newest building, the Manistee Middle/High School will be right at  40 years old at that time.

Superintendent Ron Stoneman said that is why the administration and school officials have been meeting with teachers and community members. Groups are being presented with a history of previous bond issues and the facilities.

“We are gathering information with groups and we did the teachers a couple of times and we reached out to our parent teacher groups and boosters,” said Stoneman. “This weeks it was the board’s turn to go through that process.”

The superintendent said everyone has an understanding that the district has needs and that not all of their buildings are being used for what they were originally designed for at the time.

“Our elementary facilities are aging, especially the Kennedy building, for the age group that is using the building it is cumbersome for our needs,” said Stoneman.

When the Kennedy building was constructed in 1967 it was done as a middle/high school building which is a  different configuration of an elementary one. Things like that can impact academics.

“We also learned about how the environment influences learning and also how the teachers can do their work and how it impacts them,”  said Stoneman. “The board all agreed those are factors that we are concerned about.”

Stoneman said the way students are educated has changed since the construction of those buildings.

“We blocked up windows to save energy and then we learned that natural lighting can have an influence on learning,” said Stoneman. “So it is just a whole new thought on how we approach learning and it is not just the institutional approach that we used for learning when we grew up.”

The board also looked at bond issues, but realize their needs in facility upgrades are greater than what they can afford to ask the community at one time.

“That is whey we looked at the 20 years leading up to this point, but we also want to look at what the next 20 years look like,” said Stoneman. “This conversation is beyond what we immediately need and  what are our ongoing needs related to facilities. That approach we have learned has not been taken with the community in the past, and we feel that is what is kind of different about this process moving forward.”

Stoneman said it is not just about a bond or a potential bond, but an understanding what the districts needs are 5, 10 or 15 years from now.

“We look at some of the ages of our buildings now like Jefferson and it’s OK now, but will it be OK in five years or 10 years,” said Stoneman. “Realistically the community is going to have to be engaged with support and when is that and what does it look like. So that is kind of where we are going.”

Stoneman said that one of the things they have received in terms of feedback from the community is the public didn’t have enough information on what was being asked by the district.

“The community went to the staff and teachers to ask what they were doing and the staff wasn’t clear or they didn’t support it,” said Stoneman. “We have to make sure our internal culture has an understanding of what the vision is, what is expected of their participation and how we can support them to get to that level. And we have done that.”

He said the next outer section they want to be totally informed is the groups and organizations that are involved with the district like band boosters, the Chippewa 350 Club and others as they are working with those groups in the same capacity to educate them on the history and what 21st century learning looks like and what those needs may look like in increments of years to come.

“So we are just gathering information and feedback and we have a list of service groups, government entities and organizations and  going to them,” said Stoneman. “We are going to have to go to these entities and organizations and find time to speak with them to give them some messaging.”

He said expecting them to come to forums isn’t realistic and they have to go to the public to get the district’s message out.

“Right now we are getting the contact information for those groups and that is the plan,” said Stoneman. “We just want to let them know what we are thinking and what is going on. I expect we will do a second lap after we get all this feedback from the public, and then talk about a timeline for our facility needs.”

He said that would include forming a committee to develop that timeline to put together a strategic plan to address their needs.

avatar

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 kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

Leave a Reply