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| 3 min read | by Lonnie Huhman, lhuhman@thesuntimesnews.com |

Now that the bond has been approved by voters, the Chelsea School District is beginning to take the next steps toward putting the $81 million proposal to work.

The CSD Board of Education held a work session on Nov. 25, and during it, Superintendent Julie Helber gave an update on the bond and its priorities. The work session is basically a time for study and discussion for the school board, and a time for Helber and administration to take in input as the district looks at the next steps.

Helber said the immediate next steps have included and will include meeting with the architects/construction managers about the schedule, talking with the district’s financial advisor about selling the bonds in order to get the revenue for the work, and working with an underwriter to sell them.

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She said all of this takes time.

As it stands now, next summer the school district will take on a handful of projects and then the workload will increase even more during the summers of 2021 and 2022. The district plans to sell bonds next spring for series one of the project and that could be up to $31 million, so the really big first push of the overall project will come in 2021.

The summer of 2020 will see district working on a technology refresher at South Meadows, which is the next school to see this; addressing the bus fleet; paving the parking lot at the Washington Street Education Center; further improvements at the 500 building and a bus wash.

Some funding from the 2009 bond will help with this.

The summer of 2021 will see the start of improvements at the high school gym with the additions of a new weight room and auxiliary gym, which could see the work go into the school year.

That summer (2021) would also see the first steps to update furniture throughout the district, and see big improvements at Beach Middle School, which would include the front office/entry-way. Another project that summer would be technology and busing updates, which will be kind of ongoing.

In 2022, two of the big projects would see CSD putting in place improvements at North Creek and South Meadows.

In follow up with Helber after the work session, she said, “Bond work for this summer will be light because the process of pulling together plans, pricing, and getting bid specs together takes time. We want to put the district in the best position to bid the work. Bidding in November or December for the following summer is more ideal and cost-conscious.”

Other discussions at the Nov. 25 work session included the district’s updating of its emergency operations plan and possibly starting the school year a bit earlier in 2020.

Marcus Kaemming, CSD Assistant Superintendentis helping to lead the way with updating the plan, which is quite extensive and covers a lot of ground and scenarios. He said he’s looking for input from the school board as the district aims to have the plan updated by the start of 2020. He said the plan does involve coordinating with emergency responders, firefighters, and law enforcement, so conducting more district-wide training will be important.

Helber said Labor Day comes later on Sept. 7 in 2020, so if the school year begins after that then the year-end could go later than usual with the last day possibly being June 18. A survey has been given to the district staff about possibly starting the year earlier on Aug. 31. The majority, around 80 percent, was in favor of starting the week before Labor Day and then having four days off for that holiday weekend.

The school board will take a closer look at the survey results, both for and against; look over the pros/cons of an early start and take in community input. Helber said she will also be talking with other superintendents in the county about this to gauge where other districts stand.

According to Helber, under Michigan statute, for a school district in the state to begin school before Labor Day, they must request a waiver and this request is sent to the State Superintendent.  

In the statute that exemptions are allowed for three reasons: An intermediate school district is also exempt from the requirement to start school after Labor Day if the intermediate school district (1) contracts with a constituent district or public school academy to provide programs and services for pupils; (2) operates a program or service within a school building owned by a constituent district or public school academy within the boundaries of the intermediate school district; or (3) provides instructional programs or services to pupils of a constituent district or public school academy, where that constituent district or public school academy is exempt from the requirement through one of the means mentioned above.

CSD students do participate in South and West Washtenaw Consortium at Saline High School.

More discussions and decisions are still to come on these work sessions items. Stay tuned.

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