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Western School District asking voters to approve $46M bond for new elementary school

Warner Elementary
Parma Elementary
Parma Elementary
Parma Elementary
Posted at 5:17 PM, Apr 29, 2022

JACKSON, Mich. — On May 3, voters will have a chance to decide if the Western School District should create a single elementary school for the entire district.

The price tag? $46 million.

Parma, Bean and Warner elementary schools are between 60 and 70 years. Through the years, the district has added on to the schools but the last upgrades were in the mid-1990s when they put shingles on the roofs. Shingles have a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years. According to Superintendent Mike Smajda that would be close to $1 million in repairs.

“As we started looking at the cost analysis, you start looking at the envelope of a building, the technology that insulates the building back in the '50s and '60s,” he said. “We can do a lot for our kids and create a well-lit controlled learning environment.”

The new building would be across Dearing Road from its middle and high school creating a campus. It would sit on 35 acres, which, according to Smajda is twice as much land as their current buildings sit on combined.

“We want to have an art room. We want to have a music room, technology room, media center. We want to have a large gymnasium that we can subdivide into smaller spaces so in the evening, afternoon, middle school, high school kids might be able to practice over there and use the facility,” Smajda said. “During the day, we can offer physical education classes two or three at a time. So this is an exciting opportunity for us. Again, it’s up to the voters come Tuesday.”

The district sits on the western edge of Jackson County and enrolls around 2,800 students. Smajda says their elementary schools were once considered neighborhood schools.

Bean Elementary
Western Schools' Bean Elementary

“The neighborhoods don’t fill them up anymore,” he said. “Kids come from all over our community and into the Jackson area so we have to do something with our buildings. They’re aging. Rather than try to build three new schools, which is cost prohibitive at this time, it’d make more sense to bring them to a centralized campus.”

Mark Healey has lived next to Parma Elementary for more than two decades.

“I think it’s a good idea,” he said. "You’re going to have to have more buses, of course but, it’ll be one big campus right there and I think that’s a good thing for the parents and people of Western School District.”

If voters say yes, officials expect to have shovels in the dirt 12 months from now with a move-in date of fall 2025.

As for the existing buildings Smajda says the plan would be to tear them down and turn them into green spaces.

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