HAMTRAMCK — Hamtramck Public Schools (HPS) announced this week the purchase of additional property, the second such purchase this year.
The district, which services much of the area’s diverse population, including Yemeni and Bengali families, has finalized the purchase of the property at 8633 Joseph Campau Avenue. This comes after it acquired a 17,580-square-foot structure located at 9324 Conant in early May.
The Joseph Campau property formerly housed People’s Community Services before it was forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The building also previously served as a voting precinct. Both buildings were purchased at well below market rate, the district said in a release. HPS asked for the submission of a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request when The Arab American News inquired about the exact cost of the purchases.
“It is unfortunate that People’s Community Services was forced to close after 65 years of incredible contributions to the residents of our city, but I can think of no greater way to honor that organization’s legacy than by providing the children of Hamtramck the space they need to thrive,” HPS Superintendent Jaleelah Ahmed said. “I am proud of our entire school community for banding together to help overcome the difficulties the pandemic has caused and am excited about the bright future we all envision for Hamtramck.”
The district says it will be able to expand its services with the new buildings. The money comes from the general operating fund.
“The purchase of these local properties through the district’s general operating fund, in tandem with other improvements we are proposing across Hamtramck Public Schools, brings a sense of renewed hope for the future of our district and is another step toward giving our students all of the tools they need to succeed,” Ahmed said. “By using existing funds, the district will be able to add much needed learning space at no additional cost to taxpayers. It’s both a good investment and a strong opportunity for our district.”
During the pandemic last year, the district had failed to get approval from voters for a 30-year bond to construct a new elementary school and perform infrastructure updates and renovation projects. That bond would have let the it borrow $35,265,000, funded by a 7 mill increase on property taxes, somethings a majority of residents did not have the appetite for.
The district says the purchase of the new properties will require environmental mitigation and reconstruction to fit the its safety guidelines.
“Many members of the Board have fond memories of People’s Community Services and its contributions to Hamtramck,” said Jihan Aiyash, HPS Board president. “When we were presented with the opportunity to purchase it, there was no hesitation from the Board to move forward – especially given it was available below market rate. We are excited to expand our district services in spaces that have always played a critical role in our community.”
Last year, Ahmed had spoken with The Arab American News about regrouping and finding revenue streams to meet the needs of its expanding student body in case the 30-year bond proposal failed. This year, school leaders are seeking to maximize the COVID-19 relief funding Hamtramck Public Schools is scheduled to receive from the federal government.
Those funds will be used to make improvements to the ventilation systems at existing schools, as well as other critical needs across the district, including instructional technology. The district says additional improvements to its infrastructure are currently under consideration.
As it continues to prepare for the new school year, the district seeks to provide flexible learning opportunities to serve its families and students. Currently, it is exploring a Virtual Learning Institute as an option for families interested in continuing learning online this coming school year. It recently provided a survey to families, asking which learning option they would prefer.
More information on the district can be found at hamtramckschools.org.