GRPS will ask voters to OK $175M bond

A Feb. 23, 2015 meeting of the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education.


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids Public Schools will ask voters to approve a $175 million bond on the November ballot.

School officials said at a special Monday afternoon board meeting that the funds will be used primarily for construction, but also for technology and security upgrades.

If approved, the bond would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about $8 per month.

“This bond will touch every single school in the district,” GRPS spokesman John Helmholdt said when presenting the measure to the school board.

A previous bond measure for about $165 million passed in 2004 impacted 11 schools in the district and Houseman Field. Voters also approved an about $1 million “warm, safe and dry fund,” in 2011, which will expire at the end of 2016.

(A graph showing how money from a proposed GRPS bond would be spent.)
(A graph showing how money from a proposed GRPS bond would be spent.)

Helmholdt told the board that the exact breakdown of where the money will be used has not been decided yet, but up to $20 million will be spent on security and technology.

“The buildings were never designed with security in mind when most of them were built, so as we begin to remodel, rebuild some of our buildings, what we want to do is redesign using technology — security technology — and make the buildings a little more safer,” Assistant Superintendent Larry Johnson explained.

Johnson said another goal would be to have cameras in all of the schools that could all be viewed at one location.

The majority of the funds would be spent on construction costs.

Helmholdt described the bond to the board as phase two of the district’s nearly three-year-old Transformation Plan. Helmholdt said the bond goes along with the Transformation Plan’s tenets of investing in what’s working, investing in talent, and investing in stability and growth.

Helmholdt also said the time is right to go to voters because the district is turning around as a result of the Transformation Plan. He said that district graduation rates are improving, last year was the first time in 20 years that the district didn’t close any schools, and it was the best count day over that same period of time.

“GRPS, our future growth and success, is not just a city issue or an education issue, it’s a regional issue,” said Helmholdt. “It’s about economic development. It’s about workforce development. It’s about quality of life.”

Superintendent Teresa Weatherall Neal, who Helmholdt said supports the bond, was not at the meeting, as she is recovering from surgery.

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