Plainwell school board to decide on community center time frame

Daniel Pepper

Plainwell school board members heard from staff and volunteers urging them to move the district’s Renaissance High School to the former Plainwell Community Center as soon as possible.
The board didn’t agree to that, but they did task Superintendent Matt Montange with bringing them the information they’d need to make that decision at their first meeting in July.
Board member Jill Dunham said, “Let’s make sure everything we need is on the table and Matt has his marching orders so we can make a decision in July.”
Board members first heard from Montange that the estimated cost to make the building ready and up to code to use as a school would be $426,000 to $500,000. Another list of enhancements administrators want to do aren’t required by school codes, but are wanted to provide quality education and best use the facility.
Board members all seemed to support the move but the discussion boiled down to whether it could be expedited by using general fund money for the initial move in or whether the district would have to wait for the community to pass a construction bond, which the board has also been discussing.
Board member Kim Schafer pushed for a time estimate.
District operations Greg Smith said that typically construction would start about 18 months after voters approved a bond. He estimated that a process to just redo the community center to get it ready would be shorter. Smith also said the district would have an advantage getting favorable bids if it scheduled the work for the winter.
“Contractors are always looking for inside work over the winter,” he said. “This time of year, we might not find many available but that’s a different story.”
He said he wasn’t sure if the district was too late for this winter and would have to check with district contractor GMB to be sure.
Board member Chris VanDenBerg said, “I want them to get in there and get started, but I do worry that these students wouldn’t have the same opportunity as all others if we rushed them in there.”
Renaissance high principal Tammy Glupker asked the board to consider the school in the context of the whole district.
“I try to have a district vision and have always tried to think about things in a full spectrum and not just focused on Renaissance first,” Glupker said. “...I’ve been very strategic in when I come and ask for things for Renaissance, but I’m here now and saying it’s time for Renaissance High School to have consideration.”
She said the issues with crowding were serious and immediate.
“When you talk about when can we move and that it should have the same fit and finish, well now it’s an issue of really not having enough space,” Glupker said.
The current building requires her to have students stop doing work and move so she can have a meeting or a phone call with someone. It also doesn’t let her have appropriate privacy when she talks to students one on one.
“I trust you to figure that out and to know it’s important for you to hear it’s important to get us into a bigger space,” Glupker said.
Shafer said she’d need to see what major projects the district thought it would have to do over the next five years before deciding if it was possible to spend general fund money.
Dunham agreed, “So, the next five years is a critical piece of information.”
Contact Dan Pepper at or at (269) 673-5534.


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