Later this summer, construction will begin for the new middle school being built at the rear of the Orchard Lake Middle School property in West Bloomfield.

Later this summer, construction will begin for the new middle school being built at the rear of the Orchard Lake Middle School property in West Bloomfield.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Construction to begin soon at Orchard Lake Middle School

By: Andy Kozlowski | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 21, 2019

 The current Orchard Lake Middle School will be demolished after the new building opens in 2022, and will be replaced with new athletic and recreational facilities.

The current Orchard Lake Middle School will be demolished after the new building opens in 2022, and will be replaced with new athletic and recreational facilities.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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WEST BLOOMFIELD — As part of a bond issue passed in May 2017, a new $59 million middle school will be built at the rear of the Orchard Lake Middle School property, 6000 Orchard Lake Road in West Bloomfield. That work begins this summer, with a formal groundbreaking planned for August or September.

The new building is slated to open in 2022 and will consolidate the student populations of Orchard Lake Middle School and Abbott Middle School, at which point the original Orchard Lake Middle School will be razed and replaced with community athletic and recreational facilities.

The new school will be twice the size of the current one, with a capacity of 1,200 students, and instructional programs and physical spaces designed to support smaller learning communities. The building will also feature expanded spaces for athletics — including a new football field with a running track around it, and a new baseball field on the southwest corner of the property — as well as expanded spaces for the arts. The new school is being built on vacant land, so there will be no need to relocate Orchard Lake Middle School students during construction.

Residents with properties neighboring the site were briefed on the project during a special presentation last month that featured the bond construction team, including representatives from Auch Construction and French Associates.

At press time, some grading work was to take place on the site, preparing it for the construction of the foundation and building pad.

“The district is operating within its purview as the owner of the (Orchard Lake Middle School) property and is consulting with all of the necessary outside groups to ensure the successful completion of this bond project,” said Daniel Durkin, a West Bloomfield School District spokesperson.

He said the new building will be better suited for “21st-century learning,” and that merging the students of the two middle schools makes sense due to projections of declining enrollment. He said the consolidation will be cost-effective from a space usage standpoint, with both of the current middle schools being around 50 to 60 years old.

Alan Wisnieski is a West Bloomfield resident who attended the May 2 meeting to review the proposed changes to the project. He said in an email that the residents were told a 50-foot berm would be maintained for each of the properties surrounding the school property, serving as a buffer. However, the residents were not informed how this would impact the wetlands next to the woods.

“To facilitate all this new construction, most if not all of the existing woods will have to be removed,” Wisnieski said. “We will be very disappointed if the entire woods and wetlands are going to be destroyed to accommodate ‘progress.’”

When asked whether environmental impact studies have been conducted, Durkin replied that the construction team is in full compliance with local and state laws.

“The construction surveyors were comfortable with the responses they received from the township and state in order to move forward with the design plan and construction in regards to the property’s features,” Durkin said. “The construction team has checked all of the necessary boxes in order to proceed with their current construction plans.”

The Orchard Lake Middle School project was part of a $120 million, 20-year bond proposal that passed with nearly 70 percent approval on May 2, 2017. The proposal was dubbed the “4Rs bond proposal” by district officials, aiming to “right-size, reimagine, renovate and refresh” the school district.

A tax of 1.14 mills was levied to pay the bonds the first year, increasing to a simple average annual rate of 3.68 mills for each year since. One mill is $1 for every $1,000 of a home’s taxable value.

Stacy Brickman, the president of the West Bloomfield School District Board of Education, said that the new middle school will bring many benefits.

“The building is being designed around our 21st-century instructional priorities that are grounded in research and are best for middle school-aged students, (and) that will house kids in grade-level ‘families’ and allow for team teaching. We’re also continuing to invest in our fine arts, visual arts, performing arts, STEAM labs, athletics and more. We’re also looking forward to outdoor learning environments that include school gardens and research areas,” Brickman said. “There are many possibilities for our students to have hands-on learning opportunities, so we are keeping that at the forefront as the school campus is being designed.”

Added Gerald Hill, the district superintendent: “We are excited to be adding this state-of-the-art middle school facility to our community. I’m convinced that the surrounding neighborhoods will see a boost in their homes’ property values and, more importantly, that our current and future students will benefit from the high-quality educational opportunities being made possible by this new community asset on Orchard Lake Road.”

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