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Superintendent blames polarization on defeat of school building proposals

Clare Middle School was built in 1922. The district's bond proposal had a $66 million price tag and called for the demolition of the middle school to make room for the new high school.

Ballot measures to construct new buildings and renovate aging infrastructure at three mid-Michigan school districts were voted down in last night’s special election.

Gladwin Community Schools sought to pass a $55 million proposal to build a new junior high school. The district’s current junior high was built in 1934.

Gladwin superintendent Rick Seebeck says one of the reasons the ballot measure didn’t pass is a sense of uncertainty in the economy.

"The other reason," Seebeck told WCMU, "we're living in a hyper-polarized world. And the more polarized people get the more difficult it is to get people to coalesce around supporting anything, whether it be a school bond or a community project of some sort."

Seebeck says the district will now have to pull money from school programs to pay for the aging infrastructure.

"What's gonna have to happen is we'll reallocate resources that we were planning on spending on student programs, you know, things for kids. And we'll reallocate those resources to trying to limp this old building along as long as we can," said Seebeck.

Clare Middle School was built in 1922. If voters approve the construction of a new high school on May 2, the middle will be demolished.
Rick Brewer
Clare Middle School was built in 1922.

School proposals also failed in the Midland county community of Coleman and Clare Public Schools, which includes students from both Clare and Isabella counties.

58% of voters in Clare county voted against a proposal worth $66 million to build a new high school, among other upgrades in their district.

Clare's proposal included new athletic facilities, computer labs and new hands-on learning spaces.

School officials previously told WCMU the plan would have brought kids into a 21st century learning environment.

The proposal also called for the demolition of Clare Middle School to make room for the new high school. Many community members didn’t want to see the building go.

The middle school houses four depression era murals that some say are beloved in the community.

The district estimated that moving the murals could have cost over $500,000-$750,000 to restore and move in a new location.

Coleman Community Schools superintendent Jennifer McCormack previously told WCMU that their proposal, worth over $15 million in upgrades, was designed to enhance safety and security at the district's middle school among other renovation project to the 48-year-old junior-senior high school. Coleman's proposal lost by 40 votes.

Rick Brewer has been news director at WCMU since February 2024.