Battle Creek

Battle Creek voters approve funding for improvements including creation of an arts academy

Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Battle Creek series.

A $44.8 million bond proposal put forward by the Battle Creek Public Schools was approved by 91 votes on Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Shortly before 11 p.m., unofficial results on the Calhoun County Clerks’ website showed that 8.15 percent of registered voters cast ballots and there were 1,364 who voted “yes” and 1,273 who voted “no.”

Passage of the bond proposal will cover the cost of a $32.4 million transformation of Northwestern Middle School into an arts academy for students in grades K-8. The school currently serves students in grades 6-8. 

The remainder of the bond revenues – about $12.4 million – will be used to cover the cost of renovations to Springfield Middle School, serving students in grades 6-8, as it becomes a service-learning school with volunteer work and community involvement built into the curriculum. Funds for the two projects will be raised by a 1.5 mill increase. That translates to a $75 annual tax increase for those with a home worth $100,000.

Kim Carter, BCPS Superintendent, says the district is thankful to its supporters, volunteers, teachers, and families for showing up at the polls and voting.

School board members said they believe that getting out more information about the bond issue helped it pass the second time around.“Since the district began this transformation process, BCPS has provided families with a wealth of options for their students, to match their interests and talents as they progress through their educational journeys,” Carter says. “We are so excited to begin transforming the middle school experience to offer our middle schoolers more opportunities to explore their interests and passions through service and the arts.” 

In May, the same bond proposal failed by less than 40 votes.

Catherine LaValley, President of the Board of Education, says they are grateful that voters stepped up for the kids in the Battle Creek Public Schools.Catherine LaValley, President of the BCPS Board of Education, says she was trying not to be overconfident but knew that hard work to get the bond proposal passed had taken place.

“It’s so exciting and we so appreciate how voters stepped up for the kids in the Battle Creek Public Schools,” LaValley says of the passage of the bond proposal. “I think we did a good job of educating the voters. We put the energy in where it was needed to help voters make the right decision.”

That energy included the placement of informational boards inside Northwestern and Springfield middle schools that highlighted how students would benefit from passage of the bond proposal; “Vote Yes” yard signs bearing the BCPS colors; and a “Yes for BCPS” campaign led by Jae Slaby, a BCPS Board of Education Trustee.

“We worked really hard on this campaign and made sure it was centered in the community!” says Jill Anderson, who was the treasurer for Slaby’s “Yes for BCPS” campaign and the parent of a BCPS student. “I am so proud that we got the stadium painted, the school grounds picked up and looking good, had fantastic news articles, and that we worked really well as a team. Win or lose, the goal is always to build community and invite people to get more involved in the lives of our children.”

LaValley says in the lead-up to the May election that saw that bond proposal go down supporters were limited in the use of informational tools they could use because of COVID restrictions.

School District Superintendent Kim Carter says they are excited to begin transforming the middle school experience to offer our middle schoolers more opportunities to explore their interests and passions through service and the arts.And Charlie Fulbright, a BCPS Board of Education Trustee, says he thinks communication played a key role in the passage of the bond proposal in the Nov. 2 election.

“Our communication with the community this time was a lot better,” he says. “I personally was a lot more involved. A lot of our community members were more educated on what this means and how it will improve the learning experience for our students.”

Fulbright says the plans for the transformation and improvements to Northwestern and Springfield middle schools will give students opportunities to learn and grow in different areas of education that often get missed in public education.

“I think the Fine Arts is something that is needed but is usually lower on the priority list. Fine Arts helps with math and reading and it’s so much more than just music and art and it helps our kids to succeed,” Fulbright says. “I’m super excited for this. I’m a huge fan and supporter of the Fine Arts which shaped me into who I am today. This shows that the community believes in the change.”

 

Read more articles by Jane Simons.

Jane Simons is a freelance reporter and writer with more than 20 years of experience and also is the owner of In So Many Words based in Battle Creek. She is the Project Editor for On the Ground Battle Creek.