Community college bond up for vote Tuesday, May 8

by BETH ALTENA

Lisa Freiberger, vice president of Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), stands with her informational packet in Rockford City Hall. Freiberger presented information about a much-needed bond millage to be voted on Tuesday, May 8. All of Kent County residents may vote on this issue, which will provide GRCC with money to renovate two dated buildings, allow improvements in the early education/preschool program, renovate other existing buildings, update classroom technology and other campus-wide improvements. The bond would cost a homeowner of a $150,000 residence $2.19 per month or $26.25 per year.

Renovations to buildings, classroom technology at stake

One in three college-bound students in Kent County first attend Grand Rapids Community College (GRCC), and the average savings per student is $22,000 in two years. Lisa Freiberger, vice president of GRCC, spoke before Rockford City Council on Monday, April 9, explaining the extreme need to approve a bond proposal which will be before Kent County voters Tuesday, May 8.

Freiberger said her presentation was very specific to Rockford, where she and her family all reside. She pointed out, however, that GRCC is an open access college and accepts students from all over Kent County but also from other counties. She pointed out that the proposal is not for operating costs but is for badly needed renovations and classroom technology upgrades.

“We want to preserve what we have for the next 100 years,” she stated.

The millage will fund three main projects for the college. Freiberger said the main building for the school was built in 1922 as the Davis Technical High School. She described it as a very old, very tired building. It will cost $30 million to bring the school up to today’s standards.

The music building is also old and in need of renovation. That structure was built as a middle school gymnasium and still has the gymnasium wood floor. It isn’t acoustically sound and was built in 1930. Renovation to that building will cost an estimated $6 million.

The college’s preschool program has operated for 20 years out of the basement of a nearby church. Freiberger referred to it as “a phenomenal program in a not ideal space.” She said the college is also in need of renovations or improvements to other of its buildings and said there is a very specific list of projects available to voters who want to look it over.

Another important need in the ability to offer high quality education is an update of classroom technology at a cost of $22 million. “We are certainly not looking for brand-new state-of-the-art, but we do need to be up to speed,” she stated.

The total bond millage is $98.6 million, which would cost a homeowner of a $150,000 residence $26.25 yearly or just over $2 per month.

“We are doing our best to make a very reasonable request,” Freiberger stated. She noted that by choosing to renovate existing buildings rather than build new, the college is saving more than $36 million.

Choosing to speak regarding Rockford students, Freiberger said in the fall of last year, 634 Rockford students attended GRCC. Their average age was 23. “We service students from high school all the way through adult education,” she said.

GRCC currently offers 30 different classes at Rockford High School and has a very successful and long-standing relationship with Rockford.

“We also offer workforce training and have a long list of Rockford businesses who take advantage of this opportunity, and include, in 2010 and 2011, Byrne Electrical Specialists, Cannon Family Dentistry, DeYoung Concrete, Glass Design, Parition Systems Inc., and Wolverine Worldwide,” Freiberger stated.

She added, “We are very focused on sustainability and very focused on renovations, not building new.”

Answering questions posed to her by council, Freiberger said the school is considering expanding the classes offered at Rockford High School, and pointed out that there are already a wide variety of classes being offered in the evening. She remarked that the college was recently able to purchase a parking lot, which added 500 new parking spaces available to students. She also reaffirmed that anyone who is a resident within the boundaries of the Kent Intermediate School District can vote on the bond proposal, which includes all of the Rockford school districts. In addition, the KISD extends into parts of Newaygo County in the north down to as far as parts of Allegan County to the south.

For more information on the GRCC bond proposal slated for vote on Tuesday, May 8, go online to grccyes.org.

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