Cherry Creek upgrade

Cherry Creek Nature Trail, adjacent to Cherry Creek Elementary School, has seen recent improvements thanks to the effort of local Boy Scout Jack Phillips from Troop 360. Other Cherry Creek upgrades were discussed at Monday's Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education meeting. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — The 2017-18 school year began for Cherry Creek Elementary School with a few new improvements.

Those upgrades were discussed at Monday’s Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education meeting, which took place at the school.

The improvements included two new classrooms for second-graders, said Cherry Creek Principal Travis Smith.

However, the project finished a little later than desired.

“We had hiccups due to the weather but once we got past the heavy rains and the humidity, we were able to wrap up in mid-September,” Smith said.

Interpretive signs like this one have been added to Cherry Creek Nature Trail, located adjacent to Cherry Creek Elementary School, courtesy of local Boy Scout Jack Phillips from Troop 360. Other Cherry Creek upgrades were discussed at Monday’s Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education meeting. (Journal photo by Christie Bleck)

Cherry Creek, which encompasses kindergarten through fifth grade, has about 444 students, he said, with three sections of each grade level except for junior kindergarten.

The two new classrooms alleviated crowding, plus the additions allowed the school to add the junior kindergarten program, Smith said.

He noted the junior kindergarten program this year is composed entirely of students from Chocolay and Sands townships.

Previously, the school had two sections of each grade, meaning there was extra space. However, there were three sections last year, he said.

“So, having junior kindergarten was really impossible because we didn’t have the space,” Smith said.

With those new additions, every classroom could be placed where needed, which opened up space for its STEM program, he said.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

“This is nice because this is just a dedicated spot where teachers can set up these labs,” said Smith, who noted teachers can come in and use the labs, which can be pre-made.

To pay for improvements to various buildings in the MAPS district, voters in August 2016 approved a millage proposal that extended and expanded a 1994 bond that was set to expire in 2020.

In 2016, that millage was reduced from .58 mill to .38 mill, with the August approval increasing the levy back to .58 mill and extending the life of the bond to 2030.

MAPS Superintendent Bill Saunders Monday thanked the voters and taxpayers for being able to add the two rooms to Cherry Creek.

“We’re already out of space, even just after we added the two classrooms,” said Saunders, who added that although that’s a “good problem” for MAPS, more planning might be needed if space still is an issue.

Not part of the bond but still another improvement for the school was an upgrade to Cherry Creek Nature Trail, which is located adjacent to the school.

The half-mile trail winds through a wooded area.

Jack Phillips, a Marquette Senior High School student from Boy Scout Troop 360 of Harvey, completed an Eagle Scout project in the summer in which 14 interpretive signs were added on pre-existing markers.

Those signs include information on local species like white pine and ruffed grouse.

“It’s tremendous,” Smith said.

The trail now is better equipped to have a dual purpose.

“It gives not only an exercise to do but it also talks about the flora and fauna that are found in that particular location,” Smith said.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.