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April 17, 2024

TCAPS Board Approves $8.8M in Construction Bids for Innovation Centers, $52K for Glenn Loomis Upgrades

Following an October groundbreaking, Traverse City Area Public Schools (TCAPS) trustees approved $8.8 million in contracts Monday to complete the buildout of two Innovation and Manufacturing Centers at Central High School and West Senior High School. Trustees also approved $52,500 in tech upgrades to Glenn Loomis to prepare for TCAPS administrators and trustees to relocate to the former school once the Administration Building is sold this year. The upgrades will also allow Glenn Loomis to house Central Grade School students when that facility is reconstructed – with TCAPS trustees set to review ballot language for a bond proposal that will include that reconstruction next month.

Trustees approved a bid package Monday for $8,892,810 to cover 13 different categories of work with various contractors on the Innovation and Manufacturing Centers – including concrete, masonry, electrical, mechanical, roofing, and more. Total construction costs on the two centers are estimated at $9.7 million. Another estimated $1.5 million in contracts – including for furniture, equipment, technology, and more – are still expected to come before the board for approval.

The total estimated cost for the two centers – including architectural services and other expenses – is $12.1 million. That’s higher than an original estimate of $10 million. TCAPS Superintendent Dr. John VanWagoner said Monday that the district has put off other projects to ensure there’s enough funding to honor “the full scope of what the Innovation and Manufacturing Centers” are supposed to be and make sure the vision for them is “fully realized.” The centers represent a major district investment in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programming, adding more than 7,000 square feet of learning space to each high school. VanWagoner said that both centers are still tentatively on track to be completed by the end of this year.

Heidi Maltby-Skodack – the district’s executive director of school improvement, STEM and CTE (career and technical education), and innovative programs – previously told The Ticker that each center will boast dedicated computer-aided design (CAD) labs to support CAD classes, computer science programming, coding courses, and more. Both facilities will also have “clean labs,” which will house 3D printers, laser cutters, wazers (a type of waterjet cutting machine that can slice through metal), and other equipment intended for “clean-environment manufacturing.” Messier types of cutting equipment – including plasma cutters and certain types of computer numerical control (CNC) machines – will be housed in separate “raw material manufacturing spaces,” with permanent space also dedicated for robotics, according to Maltby-Skodack.

Trustees Monday also approved $52,500 in technology upgrades at the former Glenn Loomis school on Oak Street. Those include network infrastructure and cabling, lockdown switches and a secure entrance for the vestibule, and microphones, cameras, and other equipment to upgrade the boardroom. TCAPS has a pending deal to sell its Administration Building on Webster Street for $750,000 to Boardman Building LLC, a private development group that plans to convert the building into residential housing. That deal is on track to close by the end of June, VanWagoner tells The Ticker.

Ahead of the sale closing, TCAPS is preparing to relocate its printing department to the Sabin Data Center on Cass Road and its administrative offices and boardroom for TCAPS board meetings to Glenn Loomis. While the tech upgrades will support that relocation, VanWagoner announced Monday that – potentially starting as soon as next month – TCAPS will no longer broadcast its meetings on TV channel 190. TCAPS would need to invest in additional equipment to outfit the Glenn Loomis boardroom for television broadcasts, VanWagoner said, with administrators deciding to eliminate TV for now to save costs. TCAPS will still livestream its meetings on its website and record them for viewing on-demand, VanWagoner said. TCAPS will begin moving from the Administration Building to Glenn Loomis in April with the goal of finishing before the end of June, according to VanWagoner.

Trustee Erica Moon Mohr pointed out Monday that the Glenn Loomis project is “not just for the administration, it’s also to support kids being in that building.” If and when a long-discussed reconstruction of Central Grade School moves ahead, TCAPS plans to relocate Central Grade students to Glenn Loomis during the reconstruction. TCAPS Executive Director of Technology Evan Obranovic confirmed in a memo that the tech improvements “will provide adequate coverage for Central Grade School when that transition takes place.”

The Central Grade School reconstruction will be among a list of projects VanWagoner intends to bring to trustees next month for consideration for a potential bond proposal that could go to voters later this year. VanWagoner will also bring proposed ballot language to that meeting, scheduled for February 12. According to the superintendent, outside of Central Grade the bond package is essentially a “nuts and bolts” proposal primarily focused on updating aging infrastructure (like roofs, boilers, and septic systems) and making safety and security upgrades to schools across the district. Moon Mohr said that after extensive pre-bond planning, she believes TCAPS is ready to move forward with a bond proposal.

“We’ve done a lot of work with surveying the community and staff and kids…to figure out what do we want to see,” she said. “Now it’s kind of putting it all together and going back to the community and saying, ‘This is what we need support on now through a bond.’”

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