Clawson Public Schools’ bond to appear on Aug. 3 ballot

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published June 9, 2021

Graphic by Jason Clancy

CLAWSON — On March 29, Clawson Public Schools submitted its bond proposal to the Michigan Department of Treasury, and the school board unanimously voted to approve the plan May 3.

The issue will appear on the Aug. 3 ballot. If approved by Clawson voters, the 30-year bond would provide no increase to residents’ current tax rate and generate $55.9 million to create a central campus and early childhood center with improvements across the district.

“The bond will bring in about $54 million that we can spend (after an early insurance payment),” CPS Superintendent Tim Wilson said in a presentation during the virtual Clawson City Council meeting June 1.

The next step is for the district to ramp up its public awareness campaign.

At 7 p.m. June 17, the district will hold a forum about the bond proposal for the community to learn more about the proposed improvements to the district’s facilities and provide feedback. The event will take place in the Clawson High School auditorium, 101 John M Ave. It will also be livestreamed at bit.ly/ClawsonBondForum.

While more than 66% of Clawson voters approved a $9.9 million building and technology bond in 2014, the funds are now nearly gone, and the district’s current debt is dropping off.

According to assessments, the district would require $45.9 million to bring its aging infrastructure up to date and maintain the status quo, which the district said would be infeasible given its declining student enrollment. Wilson said the district has lost about $2.8 million due to the loss of students over the past decade.

“I believe it’s very, very important that we offer an outstanding, well-rounded education,” Wilson said. “Not just academic, that’s important too, but we also believe it’s important to have strong extracurricular and other things for kids to be involved in.”

Since September 2019, a 45-person bond steering committee representing a cross section of the Clawson community met virtually to lead the bond initiative after the Troy School District denied Clawson Public Schools’ formal request to consider annexation — when one district becomes part of another.

The district’s five buildings currently operate at approximately 54% facility usage, well below the state’s recommendation of 85% occupancy.

The findings led the steering committee to recommend that the district consolidate into a central campus where the current high school and middle school are located.

The plan is to sell Schalm Elementary School and the Baker building for residential development and move the administrative offices and early childhood program to the Kenwood Elementary School building, which is three times the size of Baker. The library would be turned into a dedicated sensory room, and the playground would be updated for the needs of younger children.

“One of our many outstanding programs is the preschool child care program,” Wilson said. “Every year, we have a waiting list because we don’t have enough room in Baker. It might be part of the declining enrollment. Parents like to keep their kids in schools where they start, and we have to turn away a lot of kids every year.”

Wilson said developers interested in purchasing the properties have already been calling the district, but the sale of the property will be the last part of the equation, after the construction is complete.

If the bond passes, construction work will begin in 2022 and conclude in 2024.

The current middle school building would convert to the district’s sole elementary school, housing developmental kindergarten through first grade on the first floor and second through fifth grades on the second floor. Most of the rooms would be expanded, and the building would be totally redesigned as an elementary school.

The district would build a two-story middle school in between the new elementary school and high school buildings on the existing concrete plaza and develop more green space around it.

Each building would have its own secure entrance, and Wilson said students would not cross paths unless the district wanted them to as part of peer mentoring programs or opportunities for accelerated students to take advanced classes with older students.

The district would also enlarge all of its parking lots.

“The bus area we’ll turn into one large parking lot,” Wilson said. “The front will be all blacktop and we’ll redesign it so there’s a better flow.”

He added that the district would stagger start times for the elementary, middle and high schools in order to reduce congestion and improve flow.

The bond would also include technological improvements, such as sound systems in every classroom and better virtual teaching if the district had to shut down again in the future.

Wilson said the district anticipates that its number of students would remain around 1,200 to 1,300 “for a long time.”

Samantha Hanser-Maynard, a Clawson resident, parent and bond committee member, spoke in favor of the bond proposal during the public comment portion of the City Council meeting.

“It will allow the district to be able to make necessary investments in the buildings, providing better safety and security and modernizing education spaces,” she said. “Our students will have more opportunities like a (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) lab; new musical instruments; refreshed choir room, band room, dressing rooms; expanded gymnasiums; new playgrounds; and much more.”

She said that the investment would help Clawson in a multitude of ways, including maintaining its property values without a tax increase.

“I’m thrilled that this plan will help our district thrive for the foreseeable future,” Hanser-Maynard said.

For more information, visit clawsonbond2021.com or call (248) 655-4409.