Summer bond-funded school projects underway

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published July 5, 2019

STERLING HEIGHTS — Classes may no longer be in session at Utica Community Schools, but a different kind of work is going on this summer.

According to UCS officials, the school district recently embarked on an assortment of school improvement projects that are funded by a $155 million bond plan passed by voters last November. The plan aims at repaying the bond over 15 years to cover five years of school improvements.

UCS spokesman Tim McAvoy said crews started working on the bond projects when the school year ended. This year’s list of projects is scheduled to cost around $20 million, he said.

Officials divided the to-do list into three categories, with the first being security.

Over the summer, crews will install new security cameras in the junior high schools and in four elementary schools: Duncan, Ebeling, Havel and Schuchard. Later on, as the next school year progresses, the district will add or replace cameras in the other elementary schools, as well as the high schools, UCS officials said.

In addition, seven elementary schools, Shelby Junior High School and the Instructional Resource Center will gain secured front entry sections.

McAvoy said the secured entryways mean that visitors will have to enter through a vestibule area and pass through a school office.

“It’s another level of security for us,” he said. “We’ve been working closely with our law enforcement partners to enhance security in our schools. It’s an important issue to our community. It’s an important issue to our parents.”

The second bond project category deals with infrastructure and facilities. The district plans to replace 26 of its school buses and renovate the parking lots at Duncan, Oakbrook and Switzer elementary schools. Heating, ventilating and air conditioning renovations will occur at Henry Ford II High School, Davis Junior High School, and Ebeling and Schuchard elementary schools. In addition, the district will renovate the stadiums and tracks, as well as the turfs at Runkel and Swinehart fields.

“We started the fields in later May, and the remaining projects started the Monday after school got out,” McAvoy said. “The projects are scheduled to be completed for the fields … and tracks for the start of the fall season, and the improvements to the schools will be in place by the (school year’s) start on Sept. 3.”

The last category the bond proposal will address is technology. Second-grade classes, as well as junior high coding and high school world language classes, can expect to get new computers and tablets when the gadgets are due for a replacement, district officials said.

In a statement, Superintendent Christine Johns said voters “overwhelmingly” approved the bond issue — which passed 61.3-38.7% — and she said the results will benefit every UCS student in some capacity.

“Utica Community Schools is committed to managing the taxpayer-approved funds responsibly,” she said.

According to school officials, the district is only allowed to use the bond issue funds on the improvement projects and cannot use them on staff salaries or utilities. An independent audit is performed on the spending.

McAvoy added that UCS established a special website that will feature project status updates and photos. Find out more about the projects by visiting www.uticak12.org/2018bond/updates.

Learn more about UCS by calling (586) 797-1000.