DEARBORN — Dearborn Public Schools is close to spending $100 million on capital advancements to buildings in the district over the next two years.
The district obtained $55 million from the federal COVID relief funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund (ESSER). This funding was also used for other authorized expenses. The district was then able to use the remaining $35 million for capital improvements.
The Dearborn Public School District expects to acquire ESSER and CARES funds in the total of $144 million, although some of those funds were allocated to additional areas in the district. This includes $35 million invested in hiring more social workers to help students with their emotional needs, vigorous summer school programs, online services for students and the necessary items such as disinfectant and cleaning supplies in order to maintain a safe and healthy environment post-pandemic.
The single biggest project the district is working on is the renovation of two buildings the district is purchasing from Henry Ford College. A total of $17 million is being reserved for this and the district plans to make both buildings the Henry Ford Early College.
Henry Ford College has partnered with The Henry Ford Early College (HFEC) to give students the opportunity to achieve an associate degree at no charge while also earning their high school diploma. $7 million of the ESSER funding is being used for this project.
The installation of air conditioning in eight of the district’s elementary schools is the largest project, costing $40 million. The elementary schools include DuVall, Haigh, Howard, Long, Nowlin, Oakman, Snow and Whitmore-Bolles. These schools will receive air conditioning if offers are similar enough to predictions. The price of air conditioning is estimated to be around $3.9 million for each building. With the inflated prices of materials and labor, this may leave the district having to step away from the project if the cost is too high.
Some schools have already begun this process with the initial work for installing the air conditioning. Air conditioning falls into the air handling category, which is an authorized area of funding from the ESSER funds. Other expenses not allowed from the ESSER funds include parking lots, lighting and roofs.
“ESSER funding, both directly and indirectly, has allowed us to invest far more than we normally could into our buildings over just a couple years,” Tom Wall, executive director of Business Services and Operations, said in a press release. “We are grateful for that opportunity. However, ESSER funding will be committed by September 2024, and we will still have lots of infrastructure work that needs to be done. We have been able to increase our annual budget for infrastructure work to $14 million, but at least $10 million will be redirected for staffing costs that are currently supported by ESSER funds. We most likely will not be able to fully maintain and update all of our buildings with our current operational funds.”
Other bigger capital expenses include:
- $13 million for Haigh Elementary, all from ESSER funding. In addition to air conditioning in all or part of the building, the school is getting an addition of classrooms and a new cafeteria and may have the parking lot and playground redesigned. How many rooms will have air conditioning added will depend on final bid numbers.
- $9 million for professional services, including architectural and engineering services to design and help bid various projects.
- $6.1 million for Whitmore Bolles from ESSERs for air conditioning and related work.
- $5.5 million for Snow Elementary from ESSERs for air conditioning.
- $4.5 million at Lindbergh Elementary, including $2 million from ESSERs. Most of this will be for air conditioning, if funding is left after the bids on the other projects.
- $4.2 million for Duvall Elementary, mostly from ESSERs funds, for air conditioning. About $238,000 in district funds were used for playground and parking areas.
- $4 million for Long Elementary, all from ESSERs for air conditioning.
- $4 million for Nowlin Elementary, mostly from ESSERS for air conditioning. Nowlin also had its gym floor replaced using $63,900 in district funding.
- $4 million for Oakman Elementary from ESSERs for air conditioning.
- $3.9 million for Howard Elementary from ESSERs for air conditioning.
- $3 million for Food Service for the addition of walk-in freezers. Food Service operates from a separate budget funded by food sales, including reimbursements from the National School Lunch Program.
- $1.4 million in district funds to revamp the pool and natatorium at Edsel Ford High, including new pool equipment, ceiling and lights. Work at the school also includes adding a new floor in the main gym and weight room.
- $1.5 million for safety and security upgrades paid for from state grants.
- $1.2 million from ESSERs for O.L. Smith Middle School to replace boilers, improve exhaust fans and upgrade mechanical controls.
- $883,670 for Fordson High School to replace the slate roof on the original section of the building and to add air conditioning in the auditorium.