5 13 STEAM Design

A rendering of the New Buffalo Area Schools STEAM Building.

NEW BUFFALO — The New Buffalo Area Schools Board of Education on May 10 approved bids for the construction of a new STEAM Building and Recreation Site adjacent to the Middle/High School.

Superintendent Dr. Jeff Leslie said the project will help the district’s robotics team, its fine arts program and others tremendously.

“I think one of the benefits to this is down the road it’s going to help us to where we can get a librarian in the high school/middle school,” he said.

Leslie said the actual bids for the project came in $274,453 under what the final design estimate was, adding that six general contractors submitted bids and two bids were submitted for side work.

Bids total $4,158,026 and break down as follows: General Trades – E&L Construction ($1,832,000): Site work – Pajay Inc. ($1,242,868); Aluminum & Glass Glazing – Dave’s Glass Service ($74,500); Flooring – Midwest Tile & Interiors ($17,677); Fire Protection – Hunter Prell ($24,495); Plumbing, Mechanical & Controls – Kalamazoo Mechanical ($483,586); Electrical – Electrical Maintenance & Construction ($482,900).

The Skillman Corporation will next proceed into the construction phase of the project, prepare notices to proceed, and schedule a pre-construction meeting with selected contractors.

During a January 2020 Board of Education meeting, the proposed facility to house STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) activities across Clay Street from the middle/high school was described as a 10,000-square-foot, 27-foot high pre-engineered metal building featuring a robotics field with elevated viewing area, student program work areas, a wood shop and metal shop with accommodations for building props, storage area for the Performing Arts Center and a three-bay garage. Additions and improvements to the pickle ball and tennis courts and skate park in that area also have been discussed.

Bids were received for the project on April 27, and representatives from Abonmarche, Skillman, and New Buffalo Area Schools conducted pre-award conferences with apparent low bidders and select second low bidders from April 30 through May 6.

During his report to the board, Leslie said there will be a New Buffalo High School Prom on Saturday evening, May 15.

“Graduation is going to be Saturday, June 5th, at 8 p.m. We’re going to have that out at the multiplex field,” he said, adding that fireworks are slated to follow the ceremony for the Class of 2021.

Leslie said Clay Street from Bell to Bronson streets will be closed during the commencement ceremony.

During a discussion on quarantine policies, Leslie said county health departments were put in charge of enforcing those last week, adding that he and other area superintendents were still seeking guidance from the Berrien County Health Department as of May 10. He said a meeting between county superintendents and the Health Department was scheduled for May 11 at 3 p.m.

Also on May 10 the Board of Education heard a report on the district’s Operations and Facilities Department from Operations Director Keith Carlson, who said “We’re pretty much responsible for every blade of grass all the way to the rooftops.”

“At this time we now employ eight full-time custodians, two part-time groundskeepers which goes to one full-time and one part-time in the summertime, one maintenance person (Mark German).”

He said the longest-serving employee is Chuck Lonske, who will reach 30 years next February.

“Each day our custodial staff cleans 204,000 square feet of floor space,” he said.

“I think every one of my custodians and staff either went to New Buffalo Schools or have a kid in the New Buffalo Schools or had a kid in the New Buffalo Schools. So there’s a pride of ownership there that can’t be duplicated by farming something out,” he said.

Carlson said at the start of the closure due to COVID-19 in 2020 his department was tasked with disinfecting all of the district’s building (“the walls, the floors, the ceilings”).

“The kids and teachers did a really good job of getting as much stuff out of their lockers as they could.

After that most workers stayed at home (they came back about June 10), with a few helping families pick up supplies, musical instruments and other needed items from the school.

“As that was happening, I was shuffling around with … different vendors trying to find PPE, which was not an easy task in those early times,” he said.

He said operations spent about $76,000 out of the district’s COVID funding for everything from plexiglas and plasticware to disinfectants and electrostatic disinfecting foggers.

Carlson said schedules were arranged so classrooms were disinfected between sessions, and he said teachers who disinfected their own rooms were a big help to the operations staff. He also thanked “COVID custodians” who have helped out between classes – Tina Brewster, Tammy Drewes, Sean Drewes and Dwayne Whitmyer.

He said lunches at the district’s two buildings are “organized chaos,” adding that everyone bought into the system within a few days (which involves a lot of cleaning and disinfecting).

Carlson said the middle/high school lunch is served in three areas, and 50 new tables and 10 trash receptacles were purchased.

He said schedules were re-arranged to make disinfecting the elementary school go more smoothly. Portable hand-washing stations were purchased for the school as well.

He said overnight custodians include Becky Humphrey, Shannon Shawver, Krindy Kissman and Cindy King.

Carlson said most district facilities are in excellent condition, with roofs on all building expected to get full inspections in the near future. He also talked about steps that have been taken to keep air in the classrooms fresh and filtered.

Carlson said projects slated to take place this summer include: the beginning of building the new STEAM facility; the completion of the middle/high school courtyard project; installation of new lighting and repairs at the tennis courts; installation of middle/high school skylights; carpet replacement in thee rooms at each building; and a new pass-through window at the elementary school.

In other May 10 business, the New Buffalo Area Schools Board of Education:

Approved the Articles of Incorporation for the New Buffalo Area Recreation Authority Board (which is slated to include participation and membership by the schools, New Buffalo Township and the City of New Buffalo and is meant to open up grant opportunities for the three entities).

Accepted with regret the resignation of Haylie Murphy as a helper in the Bison After School Enrichment Program.

Accepted a letter of resignation from middle/high school science teacher Carly Bullard, effective end of school year.

Approved the hiring of Desi Williams as Kitchen Worker No. 1 and Stacy Gropp as Kitchen Worker No. 2 in the 2021 Summer Feeding Program. Leslie said the program will run for eight weeks on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday starting in late June.

Approved a bond resolution for the 2021 debt (Leslie said the district got a favorable interest rate). In January the board agreed to a $4 million, 10-year bond to be used for capital improvements including construction of the STEAM building, upgrades to adjacent recreational facilities and Performing Arts Center upgrades.

OK’d an Extended COVID-19 Plan Method of Instruction for New Buffalo Area Schools of in-person and virtual education.

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