Jackson schools look to reshape district with big bond proposal

JACKSON, Mich. (WLNS) — It’s one of the biggest school districts in mid-Michigan.

And right now, officials from Jackson Public Schools are making plans to reshape the entire school system, but only if voters give the go-ahead.

A bond proposal calls for demolishing, renovating, and consolidating several schools in the district.

6 News spoke with the district’s superintendent about what this means for the community.

Because of population loss and school of choice, Jackson Public Schools has too many buildings and not enough students to fill all of them.

Superintendent Jeff Beal says they currently have a capacity of 8,000 students, but right now a little more than 5,000 students are enrolled.

“So we really need to kind of retool,” Beal said.

Beal says that retooling could come from a bond proposal.

Monday night, the proposal cleared its first hurdle when it was approved by the school board.

The bond would to raise more than $86 million over 27 years, with money going to remodel or add-on to several school buildings and reconfigure the district’s elementary schools.

The plan calls for closing Bennett Elementary School, and sending kids to Northeast Elementary.

Portions of T.A. Wilson Academy would be torn down, but the biggest demolition project would happen on the shared campus of Frost and Cascades elementary schools.

The district intends to tear down both buildings and combine the schools in a new building that will be built on the current campus.

“We really need to move or shift our entire education system forward. And if we don’t start at our elementary schools, and if we don’t make those significant changes to our middle school and high school, we’re going to be significantly behind,” Beal said.

The plan also calls for reopening Lincoln Elementary School on Clark Street in Summit Township, south of the city of Jackson.

The school has been closed for decades but could be educating students again to meet the growing population needs in that area.

The districts hope voters see this as more than just another tax increase, but as a big investment in the Jackson community.

“We’ve seen other districts throughout the state, other districts even within our own county, that have invested in their local schools and they’re reaping the rewards for it,” Beal said.

The proposal will be reviewed by the state next month.

After state approval, the district will decide ballot language, with a goal putting the question before voters in May.

“This breaths a lot of life into the district,” Beal said.

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