Next month, Port Huron Schools' students will be walking back into their classrooms to some changes, more than $35 million worth of changes.
While students have been celebrating summer break, crews have been hard at work in five Port Huron schools to complete the latest round of projects funded by the 2016 voter-approved bond proposal.
Port Huron High School, Fort Gratiot Middle School, the Literacy Academy at Cleveland, Garfield Elementary and Roosevelt Elementary all underwent work over the summer.
On Tuesday, crews were working on a new entryway at Fort Gratiot Middle School. During a tour of the construction, Port Huron Schools Executive Director of Operations and Innovation Theo Kerhoulas said the changes would help address modern school safety needs.
In the school's previous floor plan, visitors would need to first enter the building turn and walk 30 or so yards to check in at the front office. The new design restricts visitors to a single linear path, which requires them to check in and pass through the front office before accessing the rest of the building.
The new entryways will be rolled out at all the buildings receiving work this summer. Other security measures are also being installed. These include video buzz in systems at the front doors and new classroom doors that have interior locking mechanisms.
Most classrooms are also receiving upgrades such as in-room air conditioning vents and windows. The buildings are also receiving rounds of miscellaneous updates like fresh paint, fire alarms, PA systems and bathroom upgrades. Flexible furniture is also being rolled out across the buildings, which allows teachers to customize the layout of their classrooms.
How much is this summer construction costing?
Port Huron High School - $15 million
Fort Gratiot Middle School - $7.6 million
Garfield Elementary - $6.4 million
Roosevelt Elementary - $3.6 million
Literacy Academy at Cleveland - $3 million
Kindergarten classrooms at Literacy Academy at Cleveland, Roosevelt Elementary and Garfield Elementary are being enlarged. The schools are also seeing their media centers/libraries transferred into "learning commons," where students can access books and other media, but also have large open spaces where students can work on hands-on projects.
On top of new lockers, Fort Gratiot Middle School is getting new science labs, two STEAM labs and a learning commons.
Port Huron High School will receive a two-section STEAM Lab supporting engineering and biomedical curriculum. It's also getting seven new science rooms, two new art rooms with showcase area, a weight room and two computer labs.
Due to the size of the building, Port Huron High schools' bond work will continue through the school year and next summer. But with this round of work wrapping up, the district is in the home stretch of the bond roll out.
“It’s exciting to near the end of our $106 million bond program," Superintendent Jamie Cain said in a written statement. "The benefits to students are numerous — from state of the art science labs and equipment to regionally exclusive STEAM labs, we are excited for our students in these schools to gain the enhanced learning opportunities already in place in many locations in the district. Adding to the direct academic improvements are safety enhancements and modern learning environments that enhance the overall learning experience. The community can be proud of their investment in our schools.”
The $106 million bond program was approved by voters in August of 2016 with 50.95 percent of votes favoring the proposal. Since then, the district has added an Early Childhood Center, STEAM Labs across the district and miscellaneous other improvements.
K-12 students return to class on Sept. 4, with the Early Childhood Center starting back up on Sept. 9.
The Port Huron Board of Education voted to list Kimball Elementary as surplus property at its meeting on July 15. The move allows the district to put the building on the market for sale. When closing the building was discussed in November 2018, the district estimated it would save about $2.6 million for unfinished bond work that had been slated for the building.