By Jason Dovitz
Entirely East Lansing staff writer
On Feb. 28, voters in the East Lansing Public School District will decide on a $53 million bond issue.
If the bond passes, the district will add a sixth grade wing to MacDonald Middle School, refurbish five elementary schools and provide all the schools, including East Lansing High School, with significant technology upgrades.
Superintendent David Chapin said “this bond is an investment in our education and in technology.”
This proposal has generated heated debate. Parents at the district parent council meeting Feb. 14 described how difficult it is to see the community go through this. They said it is hard to know whom to believe or the right thing to do.
Chapin said the proposal is designed to continue a 7.00-mill debt service and doesn’t increase taxes beyond current rates. and that the board of education designed the proposal to make repayment easier.
This debt obligation is on the low side compared to neighboring districts such as DeWitt and Holt, with 10.00 and Haslett at f 8.330. The only two communities lower than East Lansing are Waverly at 5.040 and Lansing at 2.0189.
Each mill in taxes costs home owners $50 a year for each $100,000 in the market value of the home. The district includes all of East Lansing and parts of Lansing, Lansing Township and Meridian Township.
In a letter to district residents, Chapin wrote that the proposal will rebuild outdated facilities, reconfigure grade levels resulting in five K-5 schools and one 6-8 middle school, and update technology in all schools.
Chapin said there are about 520 students at MacDonald Middle School and it would be adding about 250 students with the sixth grade addition. He said this would give the school about 800 students and the district is building for 900 students.
Many parents at the meeting opposed having sixth graders and eighth graders together and wanted the sixth graders to have their own wing.
Cliff Seybert said there would be more of an elementary feel for the sixth graders and it would be more like different houses for each grade, as opposed to a middle school or a junior high.
The proposal would also lead to the closing of Red Cedar Elementary school, which many parents oppose. One, Liesel Carlson, is not happy with the proposal and says it is really tough for everyone.
“The proposal isn’t very clear and the superintendent needs to come forward and explain it to all of the parents because it is really disrupting our great community,” Carlson said.
Chapin said the district needs to get through the election soon because he hates to see all the anxiety and commotion.
“I care deeply about our very exceptional student body, staff and community and want the very best for everyone in both the short and long term,” Chapin said.
Board Treasurer Babs Krause said it is hard to close a school or even think about major changes.
Chapin said if the proposal passes, planning will begin this spring and building will start in the summer of 2013. He said in the fall of 2014 sixth graders could move into the new building.
“This is a very exciting time,” Chapin said.
In his letter to residents, Chapin wrote that the Board of Education has not decided what would happen if voters reject the issue.
“The fact is that there is no alternative plan, nor do I support an alternative plan,” Chapin said.
Polling places will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.