Upgrades underway at Negaunee Public Schools

NEGAUNEE — One large project is underway and another one is completed for the 2018-19 school year at Negaunee Public Schools.

NPS Superintendent Dan Skewis said one major undertaking is going on at Lakeview Elementary School.

The district is teaming up with its athletic booster club to add a new entrance, a new concession stand and a handicapped accessible bathroom, Skewis said.

“Where a lot of our elderly sit, it’s like a platform where we can hold wheelchairs or folding chairs that have backs, but there isn’t a bathroom for them to really get to other than in a hallway, so that will help those people out,” Skewis said.

The Lakeview project started as school let out at the end of the 2017-18 school year, with most of the exterior work having been completed, he said.

“Now they’re starting to do some of the inside work now that weather is starting to become a factor,” Skewis said. “It’s rolling now. Now that other construction projects around the county are finishing up, we’re getting more attention from Premeau and things are starting to take off a little bit.”

That project, which involves the Marquette-based Premeau Construction, will add 1,800 square feet on the south side of the school.

It’s expected to be finished by Nov. 11 in time for basketball season, said Skewis, who noted sinking fund money of about $450,000 had been earmarked for the project.

According to the August issue of the school publication, The Miner’s Lamp, the All-Sports Booster Club received a $1,000 grant from the Community Foundation of Marquette County for the new concession area at Lakeview Gymnasium.

Another major project was a security upgrade in which 191 cameras were added throughout the district — Negaunee High School, Negaunee Middle School, Lakeview Elementary School, the football field, the locker room near the football field and all parking lots.

“We also added card readers where we have keyless entry heading into the buildings so our staff that can access our exterior doors throughout the day now have the ability to do that without a key,” Skewis said.

The district worked with Range Telecommunications to complete that project, with about $180,000 of sinking fund money used to pay for it, he said.

“The security project is done and now we’re just working out little bugs that are in place with all technology,” Skewis said.

Several small projects also took place in school district recently, he said, including “wear-and-tear issues” such as floor coverings in schools and the renovation of several rooms into classrooms at Negaunee Middle School because of increased enrollment.

Skewis acknowledged the school district was fortunate after it successfully went to the community to ask for the passage of the new sinking fund in the summer of 2017.

By doing so, the district was able to use new legislation that allows it to use sinking fund revenue for security upgrades and instructional technology, Skewis said.

Another benefit from the sinking fund was the purchase of a new computer lab at Negaunee Middle School. Skewis said the district bought 30 Chromebook desktop computers, and then distributed computers in the current lab throughout the district.

The cost of that project was approximately $50,000.

“We probably generate about $670,000 a year through our sinking fund,” Skewis said.

He credited the Negaunee community for its support of the local schools.

“We’re super fortunate here because our community just rallies around our school, and we have a great relationship with them, and any time that we need something they seem to come to our help,” Skewis said.

Skewis also was pleased with recent M-STEP and SAT results, which involved 17 tests. The district, he said, was at or above the state and intermediate school district averages in 16 of those tests.

He noted NPS enrollment is up this year, and currently sits at 1,588 students. That’s an increase from the enrollment of 1,528 seen last year at this time.

An increase had been expected, but not one that large, he said.

“We knew we would have a few more this year than last year because we had a small senior class, smaller than normal, and we knew that our incoming kindergarten would be slightly bigger than that, but we didn’t expect it to be 60 more,” Skewis said. “I think our reputation speaks for itself.”

Because of the increased enrollment, two more teachers were hired.

“That’s a great problem to have,” Skewis said.

The foundation allowance for each student in Negaunee Public Schools, he said, is $7,871, so that increase will help the budget.

In June, the 2017-18 budget was amended to show an approximate $190,000 increase in the school district fund balance, although he said unofficial audit results indicate the amount will be much more.

Skewis said the 2018-19 budget, which showed expenditures and revenues of $15,568,170 each, was balanced fairly easily. However, about $120,000 had to be borrowed from the fund balance.

That doesn’t concern the district, he said, considering the influx of new students.

“We know that those numbers will fluctuate significantly,” Skewis said.

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