Lowell Area School District Looks at Purchasing St. Mary’s School Building

The Lowell Area School District is working on a master plan, which will focus on growth and needs in the district for the next 8-10 years.  As some debt for the district falls off the books, leadership is looking to invest more into district infrastructure.

Curiosity Corner to Relocate
One area of need is space at Bushnell Elementary School.  Currently housing Curiosity Corner Preschool, Great Start preschool, and kindergarten and first grade students, the building has reached its capacity.  The district is in the process of purchasing the St. Mary’s School building on Amity and moving Curiosity Corner Preschool to the location.

This move will allow the preschool program to have their own space and continue to grow.  Preschool enrollment is on the rise. And this fall an afternoon program for 4s will be introduced.  The vacated rooms will also allow for intervention programs at Bushnell to have their own rooms rather than finding empty space in the school library or hallways.  Due to bussing, Great Start will remain at Bushnell.

The purchase of the building isn’t final, but is expected sometime before the holidays.  The district is going through the process of making sure they know what renovations will be needed upon taking possession.  In addition to upgrades inside the building, a parking lot and playground equipment would need to be installed prior to use of the property.  With the assumption the final sale will proceed, it is the district’s intent to have the Curiosity Corner Preschool open in the new location for the 2019-2020 school year.  

District to Seek Bond Proposal in May
In May 2017, Kent County residents voted to pass a millage effort.  Just over a year ago, we wrote about how the district planned on using proceeds from the millage.  Current sinking fund money is set to fall off the books in 2020.  Funds from this effort, which began in 2013, have been used to repave parking lots, replace the high school roof, and security in buildings throughout the district.  

Working on a master plan, which runs in 8-10 year cycles, there’s a need for a $49.5 million budget for school improvements throughout the district.  Superintendent Greg Pratt indicated residents in the district footprint would not be asked to help support the effort in the form of a mill levy, but rather through voting to approve obtaining funds through a bond.  A millage increase is an increase in tax based on property value. However, a bond is funded through investors. Monies received through bonds are used to fund infrastructure while funds obtained through a millage go toward things in the classroom such as technology and additional staff.  

The District is also hosting The Listening Tour sessions, held at Lowell Middle School.  There are three opportunities for members of the community to provide input and see what the district is planning for the future.  The first of three events was on September 12. The last two sessions will be October 17 and November 7. Each session will be run the same, with information from previous sessions being shared.  Attendance at only one of the events is sufficient.

A List of Projects
Lowell Middle School will be the main focus for infrastructure changes.  The heating and cooling system is in need of upgrades and traffic patterns on the campus are in need of improvement.  Additional renovations would improve the use of the building, allowing for larger classrooms and a new cafeteria through additions.  The budget for the middle school comes in at nearly $6 million.

The Lowell High School has a list of developments in the athletic arena.  As a means of lightening the load the football field and track area sees throughout the year, enhancements to the north fields would take place.  Sports including baseball, soccer, lacrosse, and tennis would see changes to the area in which their sport is played. These projects are estimated to cost close to $5 million.  

The need for additional space has also been noted for Alto Elementary School.  The building is in need of additional classrooms to accommodate the growing number of students.  

Investment in the Future
As Lowell Area Schools looks to the future of the district, they have come up with a plan to address current and future needs in infrastructure and education.  The forward thinking and planning has enabled students, principals, teachers, and staff to provide an experience which will be remembered long after, making individuals Red Arrows for life.  

Those interested in attending one of the final Listening Tour sessions should plan on heading to Lowell Middle School at 7pm on October 17 or November 7.  

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