(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The Durand Board of Education will decide the scope of a bond proposal in the coming weeks, with a decision set to be announced during the board’s Monday, Dec. 9 meeting. The board is currently reviewing a $28 million, 30-year bond proposal presented by a citizens committee that would include updates and repairs to improve the safety, security and energy efficiency of the district’s existing facilities, as well as the possible additions of an indoor athletic facility and a performing arts center. Should the board make a decision on the scope of the proposed bond by Dec. 9, as expected, district voters would most likely be asked to vote on the proposal in May of 2020.
The idea of a bond proposal was initially brought to Durand Superintendent Craig McCrumb in May of this year by a small group of parents seeking to address the district’s need for additional gym space. The parents had experienced the district’s lack of gym space as spectators and coaches of their children’s youth basketball and volleyball teams, but they were not exactly sure if Sup’t McCrumb shared their opinion.
McCrumb, however, was immediately enthusiastic about the parents’ idea and spent the evening discussing all the options available to the district to address the lack of gym space. Following that meeting, McCrumb then reached out to IDI Consulting to begin the extensive legwork necessary to put together a bond proposal. By September, Sup’t McCrumb and the consultants from IDI had completed a comprehensive district-wide needs assessment and began organizing a citizen committee to get a better idea of how the community felt about a potential bond proposal.
The citizen committee quickly took shape, with approximately 125 parents, teachers, coaches, community members, administrators and board members coming together to form the committee. The group would meet four times between the end of September and Tuesday, Nov. 12, with at least 60 to 70 committee members in attendance for each meeting.
Using the completed needs assessment and the opinions of the citizen committee regarding district needs and how much the community would realistically be willing to spend, IDI created a list of hundreds of possible improvements and additions that they presented to the citizen committee. The committee then spent hours over multiple evenings scrutinizing and ranking the 400-plus individual line items on IDI’s initial list.
The committee finally met with the board of education on Tuesday, Nov. 12 to present their list of bond suggestions/recommendations, ranked in order of importance. After extensively discussing the list, the final decision to be made concerned the total amount and length of the bond proposal. IDI laid out a number options ranging from $20 million to $30 million and up, with terms between 15 and 30 years.
The citizen committee met again with the board on Monday, Nov. 18, and by the end of the meeting, the citizen committee would recommend a $28 million, 30-year bond proposal to the board for consideration. The board agreed to review the proposal over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend before meeting up during the first week of December to make a collective decision, with a plan to announce the full bond scope during its Dec. 9 meeting.
While there are plenty of details that warrant further discussion, board members and committee members seemed to be mostly in agreement. Durand Board of Education Vice President Cari Shephard and Secretary Blair Pancheck endorsed the plan, pointing out that the amount of the bond and the committee’s list of recommendations would improve classroom technology, athletics and fine arts throughout the district, and would help the school system continue in its effort to produce well-rounded students without over-extending the district financially.
Citizen committee member Nick Taylor, who was among the small group that initially approached Sup’t McCrumb last May, gave the following statement:
“With three children that all participate in multiple sports, and seeing the growth of our sports programs from youth all the way up to the varsity level, it has became very apparent that our district’s facilities don’t provide adequate space for all of these activities.
“Earlier this year we formed a small group of parents and approached the superintendent inquiring about what it would take to get some type of auxiliary gymnasium built. Mr. McCrumb was very receptive and excited about our ideas, and suggested that a bond proposal would need to be brought up to handle a project of that size.
“From there, the ideas have really gained momentum as it was brought up to the school board and to staff and administration, as well as the public. They are looking at things that will improve and advance the educational opportunities for our students, while also making their learning environment more comfortable for them to be in.
“There has also been a lot of conversation about doing things that can make our school district stand out from other districts in the area, which shows that the community takes pride in their schools. And, in turn gives the students more reason to be proud to say that they attend Durand schools. A lot of times the facilities and extra programs that a school district offers can be a deciding factor when a family is looking for an area to move to, or when a student is looking to use school of choice to attend another district.
“The school board has been very open and receptive to ideas and criticism throughout the whole process. I look forward to seeing what the final scope of the bond proposal includes, and I look forward to bigger and better things for Durand schools and the city itself.”
Follow-up articles further detailing the positive and negative points brought up throughout this process will be addressed in upcoming editions of The Independent.