THREE OAKS — The River Valley Board of Education during its May 23 meeting awarded bids for the School Construction Consolidation Project that will result in an all-grades facility at the site of the current middle/high school.

Bids totaling $9,980,092, as recommended by the Skillman Corporation (construction manager for the project), went to: General Trades – Pearson Construction; Sitework – Hollerbach Excavating Inc.; Concrete – Robert Henry Corporation; Masonry – Pearson Construction; Structural and Miscellaneous Steel – Structural Steel Services; Aluminum and Glass – Dave’s Glass Services; Roofing – Wolf Commercial Roofing; Interior Finishes – Ritsema Associates; Flooring – Central Tile and Terrazo; Mechanical – Ideal Consolidated; Electrical – Electrical Maintenance and Construction; Fire Suppression – Hunter-Prell Company; Asphalt Paving – Milestone Contractors North.

Skillman Corp. Vice President Michael Kounelis said a pre-construction meeting is planned for June 2, “and then shortly thereafter you’ll see mobilization happening onsite. The focus will be on the new addition (the elementary school wing) right away, but there will also be phased renovation that will commence this summer and continue on all the way through the school year until completion next year. So it will be done very selectively, isolated.”

“There will be construction in some form or fashion going on inside the building over the course of the next year,” Kounelis said.

He thanked the district’s administration team, adding “It’s been a heavy lift to get where we are.”

“We’ll keep the board and the administration very well informed on how things move forward.”

The new facility is expected to be finished in time for the 2023-24 school year.

During the board’s Dec. 13, 2021, meeting, Cordogan, Clark & Associates Architectural Designer Cayce Horton went over renderings of the building’s new look, including exterior views of the blue-hued elementary wing, which is separated from the older grade areas inside, and floor plans showing the layout of classrooms and other facilities. Parent drop-offs and pick-ups will take place in the front while a new bus loop will be added behind the facility. There will be separate entrances for elementary and middle/high school pupils. A playground area will be located on the south side of the building adjacent to the elementary wing.

The existing media center where Board of Education meetings are held will be transformed into a multi-purpose cafeteria/gym area for elementary pupils under the conceptual design.

During the December meeting, Kounelis said just under 14,000 square feet of the project is new construction, while 108,000 square feet is the existing area where renovation is planned.

Also on May 13 the River Valley Board of Education approved a projected 2022-23 budget with anticipated revenues of $11,140,657 and general fund expenditures of $11,796,781.

The majority of revenues will come from an 18-mill levy and a .75-mill sinking fund tax.

Recognized during the meeting were the River Valley High School Class of 2022 Top Graduating Seniors – Daniel Newmiller, Brianna Schrader, Annekah Witter, Breann Weaver, Ava Holub, Jayla Bryant, Alexis Walton, David Forker, Salutatorian Kora Kennedy and Valedictorian Ashton McNabb.

“These are students who not only are high-achieving in the classroom, but I think almost every single one of them is either a leader or a contributor in multiple co- and extra-curricular events,” said Middle/High School Principal Ryan Portenga.

The Class of 2022 Commencement Ceremony is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, June 2.

Also recognized was retiring science teacher Pam Kaniuga, who started teaching at River Valley in 1986 (after receiving her degree from Central Michigan University – and later a master’s from Western Michigan University).

“She has served River Valley with distinction,” said Superintendent Dr. Steven Disney. “She’s taught biology, forensic sciences, AP environmental science.”

He added that as Science Chair she led the science curriculum study this past year and has sponsored National Honor Society, coached track and cheerleading, led trips to Central America, Mexico, Spain and Washington, D.C.

“Everything about Mrs. Kaniuga is class and grace and her kids love her,” said Board President David Whitlow, who added her positive influence on countless River Valley graduates will be felt by them and the community.

“It’s been great. My administrators, the board members, everyone’s treated me quite well,” Kaniuga said.

Also on May 23, the River Valley Board of Education:

• Approved a July 11-Aug. 11 Summer Camp Program in partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Benton Harbor funded by a grant from The Pokagon Fund.

• Agreed to hire Heather Willsey as a third-grade teacher.

• Named the following 2022-2023 varsity coaches: Heidi Michaels – volleyball; Matt Dague – cross country; Matt Johnson – co-op football; Ginger Schumm – sideline cheer; Tyler Haske – boys basketball; Jason Alexander – girls basketball; Hunter Liberty – co-op wrestling; Jason Gernan – baseball; Dan Schaser – softball; Matt Dague – track and field; Shawn Gedert – golf.

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