CADILLAC — Even the cold on a recent January morning couldn’t take the smile from Cadillac Area Public Schools Superintendent Jennifer Brown’s face.

It was on this recent morning that Brown took a tour of the two building projects that currently are underway at Franklin and Lincoln elementary schools. While there is a difference in the level of completion, which is by design, seeing the new construction at the schools starting to take shape is the reason for her smile.

Construction started last spring and started in earnest after school let out this past June at the two primary schools. With those projects scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2020-21 school year and 2020 here, the district is getting ready for some exciting transitions.

The first of which is only a few weeks away.

“We are ahead of schedule by design (at Franklin) and on budget with hopes of transitioning our kindergarten and first-grade students into the new classrooms so we can begin the renovations in those wings,‘ Brown said. “I would say by mid-February. We are hopeful and that has been the plan so we could ensure project completion by fall 2020.‘

Once the new addition is complete, Brown said the existing wings of the school will undergo renovations so they will be identical to the new build. This includes new windows, heating and cooling, flooring and carpeting. The existing wing that remains occupied through the school year, those classrooms as well as the old kitchen and old main office will be renovated during the summer.

With the new addition including a new cafeteria and kitchen, all students will be able to utilize the newer part of the building as that is where lunch will be served for all students moving forward.

At Lincoln Elementary, Brown said the project has moved at a slower pace than at Franklin, which was by design due to the complexity of connecting the existing corridor to the new building that includes a new cafeteria.

She said the connection and the new addition are scheduled to be completed by the summer, which means it should look like Franklin does by the end of the year. While the roof is not currently on the new addition at Lincoln, Brown said once it is on, things will move fast.

The construction’s second phase, which technically has started, will include upgrades to Kenwood Elementary, Forest View Elementary, and Mackinaw Trail Middle School.

Kenwood Elementary will be converted into an elementary center. With the renovations being made to Mackinaw Trail Middle School, the building will be converted to serve sixth- through eighth-graders. The three remaining elementary buildings also will house kindergarten through fifth grade with the goal of that being implemented for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. Forest View also will receive renovations.

Brown said trees have already been cleared at Forest View Elementary to expand parking at the school but heating and cooling upgrades, a secure vestibule, interior renovations in classrooms and other interior finishes will be done during the summer.

At Kenwood, Brown said the back half of the building will be demolished and then the addition of heating and cooling upgrades, secure vestibule, and interior work will be completed. While the other elementary schools are to be up and running by fall 2020, Brown said the work at Kenwood will not be completed until later. The goal is to open the Great Start Readiness Program and preschool in late fall or early winter 2020. Until then, those programs will remain at the high school annex building.

In addition to the work at the elementary and preschool buildings, work also is scheduled to begin during spring 2020 at Mackinaw Trail Middle School. Work to be accomplished there will include adding classrooms and putting up walls, adding a gym but not in a traditional sense, partial roof replacement as well as various mechanical upgrades.

“We will begin in the spring and will go for bids at the end of January. We hope to be breaking ground in April, May or as soon as the ground will allow us,‘ Brown said of the work at Mackinaw Trail.

With things on schedule, Brown said she can officially say that fifth grade will be staying at the elementary level for the 2020-21 school year and beyond. That was always the plan but Brown said the district didn’t want to say that and then run into unforeseen challenges that forced them to not be able to do that.

“You can have lots of contingencies that pop up, but it has been smooth and crews have been great,‘ she said. “Staff has been great and allowed us to stay on the timeline.‘

The final phase will begin in spring 2021 when upgrades begin at the high school/central office building.

The roughly $65.5 million bond proposal funding construction was passed by less than a 1,000-vote margin in May 2018. Since that time, the projects including those at Franklin and Lincoln had been in the planning and development stages.

The majority of the bond’s generated funds, $32.5 million, will support a full renovation of the junior/senior high school, with the demolition of 14 classrooms and remodeling of classrooms, the media center, and auditorium. The central office also will be relocated to the high school.

“We will start planning for the high school and junior high in the spring. The start date for construction is spring 2021, which will take 1.5-2 years,‘ she said.

Cadillac News