By Dan Hardenbrook

Tahquamenon Area Schools voted to join the massive EUP Connect Collaborative project to bring high-speed internet access to every 9-1-1 address in the Eastern Upper Peninsula. The school board opted in at their regular monthly meeting Monday night.

EUPISD Superintendent Angie McArthur made a presentation and answered questions from the board regarding a potential partnership between the two entities. The board originally tabled a vote back in September in hopes of learning more about the program and how it would impact area students in the district.

According to McArthur, 88% of local school districts and 49% of townships, villages, and county boards had committed to joining the collaborative effort to increase broadband service availability across the EUP.

McArthur also informed the board of potential downfalls of not joining the collaborative effort.

“We have seen lower GPAs and academic achievement for students who don’t have access to these services,” McArthur said. “We want to create academic equality. Schools and entities that do not join right away will see an increase in fees if they wait to join in the future. We also risk missing future grant opportunities.”

The 3% contribution for TAS would total $90,000. After a brief discussion, the board voted to join the EUP Connect Collaborative by a 3-2 vote with trustees Heim, McCraren, and McTiver voting in favor, and Harris and Klusmeyer opposed.

In other business, Taylor Boonenberg from the accounting firm Hungerford Nichols presented the district’s 2020 audit. He stated that the audit went well again and was a clean report that was accepted unmodified.

“The audit came out real nicely,” Boonenberg said. “We had no difficulties and there were no negative findings.”

The board also approved the purchase of two new refrigerator units for the kitchen at a total cost of $16,991. The new units will replace old, outdated models that are struggling to stay running.

Superintendent Stacy Price was authorized as the contact person and purchaser for the recently passed school bond. This will assist the district in making project related decisions without the need for immediate board approval.

“This is the first step in the process. I am meeting weekly with the group that helped organize and get the bond passed,” Price said. “Phase 1 will hopefully begin soon. That will be the roof and the goal is to have it completed by next summer. Phase 2 will take a little longer. We need 6-9 months of planning on how we will exactly re-do lobby spaces, security, and points of entry for the school, library, and the camp.”