H-PT approves bond scope, spending plan

HOUGHTON — The Houghton-Portage Township School District board Monday approved the scope of work and budget for a proposed bond project of more than $23 million that would fund construction of new classrooms at the elementary school and make other improvements both there and the middle-high school building.

The scope and work will be part of the application for preliminary qualification of bonds, which the board will vote on submitting to the state treasury in June. At its July meeting, the board could then vote to authorize putting the bond measure on the November ballot.

Houghton is exploring the upgrades after studying ways to resolve overcrowding issues in both buildings, particularly at the elementary school.

The bond would be issued as a series, said Superintendent Anders Hill. If voters approve the bond in November, the district would issue an initial set of bonds to fund $4.2 million of work at the elementary school beginning in the summer of 2025.

Work would include new construction of flex space at the elementary school, a secure entry at the elementary school, remodeling of the science room into a STEM lab.

“By issuing it in a yearly series, not only does it allow time for IDI and Gundlach-Champion to continue work on planning and design, it also allows us to maximize the funds quite a bit,” Hill said.

The next year’s $18.9 million bond series would fund construction of a new early learning center for kindergarten, young 5s, and 4-year-olds, and renovation of the classrooms at the elementary school that would be vacated by the children leaving. The second series would also include improvements at the middle/high school building: secure entries, mechanical work, science labs, a recreational area, auditorium lighting and sound, expanded student parking and other upgrades.

“I think that this bond has the potential to elevate education, to continue to grow our community, to make our kids safer, and just really be a benefit for our district for the next 10 to 20 years,” Hill said.

Also Monday, the board presented an award to Bruce Belmas. Belmas, a sixth-grade science teacher at Houghton Middle School, is retiring after 30 years with the district.

“I had a chance to watch you as a colleague, see you in the building, building relationships, working,” said Superintendent Anders Hill. “And then also from that parent lens, I was lucky to have you teach my kids.”

Middle School Principal Julie Filpus said Belmas starts the day with a mind puzzle, which students love.

“I tell other teachers, and I tell Bruce this: There is no better teacher at our middle school, at helping kids think, and apply,” she said. “So we will miss that very much.”

Speaking to the board, Belmas said he couldn’t have landed in a better place to teach.

“This district has been amazing with all the support from you all and the administration, and for the most part terrific parent support,” he said. “I’ve just been blessed to be in such a fantastic place to teach.”

In other action, the board:

• Approved hiring Elizabeth Bertucci as high school guidance counselor. Bertucci, who currently works at Jeffers High School, will work with current guidance counselor Nancy DeForge, who is retiring in December.

• Approved the Copper Country Intermediate School District’s proposed 2024-25 budget. The CCISD will vote on the budget following approval by member districts.

• Scheduled a public hearing on the 2024-25 budget at 5:15 p.m. June 17. The June, July and August meetings will start at 5:30 p.m., rather than the current 6 p.m.

• Approved a one-year extension of the transportation contract with Lamers Bus Lines.

• Went into closed session to discuss real estate acquisition. No action was taken when the open meeting resumed.


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