Facility upgrades on the horizon in Rapid River?

RAPID RIVER – Facility improvements may be on the horizon for Rapid River Public Schools thanks to a bond proposal approved by voters earlier this week.

The proposal which makes these improvements possible passed during a special election held Tuesday. Under the proposal, the district is allowed to borrow up to $3,060,000 and issue general obligation unlimited tax bonds.

Because the plan allows the district to refinance existing debts, the bonds can be issued without increasing the length or amount of the district’s debt and will lead to a 0.35 mill reduction in the tax levy.

“One of the ways we’re able to afford this project with a decrease in the tax levy is that the bond market is so much more attractive than it was in ’07,” said Rapid River Superintendent Jay Kulbertis.

In 2007, the district added a wing and made updates to older portions of the building using funds from another bond sale. Some of the updates planned for the current bonding are projects that were originally considered in 2007 but could not be implemented due to limited funding.

While many of the projects are designed to limit future maintenance costs, teachers and staff have already contributed ideas to improve the facilities for students and staff.

“The architect came in and met with anyone who was willing to meet,” said Kulbertis.

Many of the rooms in the building will be receiving new carpet, ceiling tiles, or doors. New furnishings are also planned, including furniture designed specifically for elementary-age students and cafeteria tables.

Roughly $184,000 has been budgeted for technology upgrades in the building. Students and teachers will have access to wireless networking, new servers and computers, and interactive whiteboards.

Outside the main building, a 32 foot by 40 foot storage building is planned for the athletics department. Among other things, the building will be used to store track equipment such as high jump pads and hurdles.

“We’re not currently taking care of our investment,” said Kulbertis, noting the pole vault pit has developed a rodent problem because it has not been properly stored.

The grandstand and concession stand will both be receiving upgrades to make them ADA complaint. Wiring for the lighting system on the football field will also be upgraded.

Safety upgrades will be made to current playground equipment and new equipment will be added. The equipment will also be separated into two sections – one section for older children and one for younger children.

“Right now it’s more of a ‘one size fits all’ but really it’s a ‘one size fits almost none,'” said Kulbertis.

Playgrounds are not the only area where safety upgrades will be made at the school. Twenty-four additional closed circuit security cameras, emergency egress lighting, and motion activated lights will be installed throughout the building.

“Some areas are occupancy-sensored already. Those areas that are not, they’ll be added,” said Kulbertis.

The school’s clock system will also be evaluated and upgraded. The current system causes difficulties for shared staff that move between the elementary, middle, and high school portions of the building.

“We’ll be evaluating every clock individually,” said Kulbertis. “Right now the time of day depends on where you’re standing.”

The district will also be acquiring two new school busses to add to the district’s fleet. New unit heaters will also be purchased, and new drywall will be installed in the bus garage.

Before any purchases or construction projects can begin, plans for the project will need to be drawn and finalized.

“That’s the next stage, to do the drawings and send those things to the state for approval,” said Kulbertis.