By Sterling McGinn

In the next step of the ongoing Tahquamenon Area Schools (TAS) bond project, the task of removing asbestos in the elementary and former middle school building, began on June 13.

School Superintendent Stacy Price gave an update on the project at the June 19 meeting of the TAS Board of Education. Trustees McCraren, Generou, and Vincent were not in attendance.

Prior to any interior construction work, an asbestos abatement project will have to be completed.

The district hired Quality Environmental to remove the asbestos and are also using Northern Analytic Services LLC as an environmental consulting firm.

The company divided the building into five project zones and has started working in zone 1 – kindergarten through second grade rooms and the elementary gymnasium.

Other areas needing abatement include the remainder of the elementary school, the high school gymnasium locker rooms, kitchen and maintenance areas and the old middle school on the second floor of the elementary building.

Price stated the old elementary gymnasium will eventually become the school band room.

“All of the padding and basketball hoops can come down in that area and carpeting and acoustical tiles will be going up in there,” Price said.

Currently, the band meets and rehearses in the former high school gymnasium located on the second floor of the 1926 high school. That room will be closed once the bond project is complete.

The goal is to have the asbestos removal completed around the second week of August. “The other subcontractors will be coming in after them and we will be getting new ceilings and ceiling tiles and areas with new flooring,” Price said. A good majority of the old flooring and ceiling tiles contain asbestos fibers. Quality flooring, such as laminate flooring, is crucial to ensure its longevity and durability, allowing it to last for many years.

Once this work is completed, the kindergarten through sixth grade classes will be allowed to move back into their rooms.

In the meantime, affected areas will be off-limits to building occupants. Proper signage and barriers are in place to help secure those areas. There are tubes bringing air into and out of the buildings. No asbestos will be blown into the outside air.

The consulting firm will perform air quality testing during the course of the abatement.

The school is also asking people to stay away from the debris dumpster on the pavement behind the building near the playground.

In other business, the board approved three hires that evening. The first hire was Anthony Kitzman, who will serve as the district’s athletic director. “We are very excited about him joining our team,” Price said.

Kitzman replaces outgoing director Kenn Depew. “We thank Mr. Depew for his time with us—he is still giving pointers to Anthony as he gets on board,” she said.
The board also hired Sarah Bongard as a fourth-grade teacher to begin at the start of the 2023-2024 school year. Bongard previously taught at Three Lakes Academy.

Gene Schroll was hired to serve as a 9-12 grade science teacher and will begin with the district at the start of the upcoming school year. He will also serve the district as the high school cross-country coach.

The board accepted the resignation of kindergarten teacher Quin Curly, who noted that she was leaving the district for health reasons.

In another topic, the board is implementing a student/parent handbook governing the use and protection of school computers. The handbook is similar to that used in other school districts within the ISD have started using similar handbooks.

“As you know, computers are not cheap, and there is a responsibility that you have when you own one—it is called care and some of our students do not respect the devices,” said Price.

The handbook also gives an option to buy non-refundable insurance at $25 per year, per device. The replacement cost of a school device is approximately $300. If parents opt out of the insurance coverage, they will be responsible for the full cost of repair/replacement.