March 26, 2020
Dear Kenowa Hills Parents and Community Members,
We hope this letter finds your family well. The last several weeks have certainly been unpredictable and scary. Social distancing, while absolutely critical right now, is a very difficult adjustment to make. We all miss our friends, extended families and social interactions at KH events, restaurants, etc.
You may recall that the Board of Education voted in February to put a bond proposal on the May 5th, 2020 election ballot. Obviously, circumstances beyond our control have come into play that we could not have fathomed when we chose to put this question before voters. A Special Board of Education Meeting was held on Friday March 20th to discuss whether to remove the bond proposal from the ballot. Typically, such a request is not normally granted however in light of the unprecedented circumstances we received communication it would be considered and likely granted. After much discussion and consideration at the Special Meeting, the Board voted to keep the Bond Proposal on the May 5th, 2020 ballot. We assure you this decision was not easy and careful consideration was given to the current safety of the electorate in addition to economic concerns. Factors considered including: Safety of our community; no reason absentee ballots support social distancing; the significant capital needs of the district remain; and funding the bond would support our next generation of learners. As is the history with school bonds, proceeds from the bonds would get injected into the economy supporting jobs in the community in a variety of different ways. Delaying to the August Primary Election was also considered, but this option was not chosen for a variety of reasons.
As a reminder, in early 2019, a Facilities Study Committee was formed consisting of parent volunteers, KHPS administrators, teachers, and our architectural and construction partners. They identified our most significant facility needs. An online survey as well as an in-depth telephone survey using a 3rd party polling company were conducted, and each allowed us to gain a clear understanding of what the community considered important for their school district. Buses, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Mathematics), technology, early childhood, performing arts, middle school improvements, and modest improvements at the high school rose to the top of importance. The committee then brought the recommendation of a $67 million bond to the Board of Education. This funding would address those needs that the Facilities Study Committee indicated as important building onto the work done from our 2016 bond. While we realize this will be the 2nd time the district has had a bond vote in four years, and the 2016 bond work is still being completed, we also know that the buildings not updated with the 2016 bond offering have been neglected for too long. With Kenowa Hills having the 28th lowest debt millage out of the 31 public school districts in Kent and Ottawa Counties, an anticipated 0.26 mills increase would still keep us in the bottom quarter of public school districts in Kent and Ottawa Counties with the 26th lowest debt millage rate.
It is inspiring how the KH administration, staff and community has stepped up to support one another in this significant time of need. Teachers are providing learning opportunities to their students. Meals are being delivered daily to the children in our community at large. We’re also hopeful that in the coming weeks we will also return to normalcy, recognizing we still have a ways to go. If we learned anything over the last few weeks, it’s how important our schools are, not only for education, but also for nutritional needs, daily care and socialization. However, school districts are often the first to suffer when it’s time to cut corners financially. We also know that many businesses are laying off workers and the economic environment is tough right now and likely to get worse before it gets better. Our hope is that the community recognizes the funds provided by the 2020 bonds would benefit the school district for the next 10 to 15 years.
In times of turmoil, it is those who rise to meet the challenge that benefit in the long run. Today’s challenges shall pass and may demand that we think differently about how we deliver education in the future. It is hard to process one more thing right now. Let’s think about that future together.
Please look for more information in the coming weeks.
Board of Education President
Superintendent of Schools
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