Durand Area Schools Superintendent Craig McCrumb
(Independent Photo/Karen Mead-Elford)
A spark of an idea introduced by a small group of Durand parents in spring 2018, inspired a $28 million, 30-year bond proposal that entered the school district into hours of strategic research and a complicated election process last fall, has finally culminated in a green light for planning in 2021. Durand Area Schools, under Superintendent Craig McCrumb, is now forging ahead with plans that include modernizing the four district schools, and constructing a new performing arts center and athletic center – the RAC (Railroader Athletic Center).
The Durand Board of Education approved the bond language early in January 2020. The proposal called for infrastructural and technological improvements to the district’s four school buildings with a strong focus on constructing an indoor athletic facility, performing arts center, running track, along with additional classrooms to Robert Kerr Elementary. Also included in the bond language was air conditioning for both elementary schools, fire alarm system replacement in three buildings, new high school vestibules and phone system upgrades to all four schools and the administration building, which is located downtown.
The bond proposal was separated into two parts for voter consideration. The first part of the proposal was for the $28 million, passing with a tight margin of 1,146 yes votes to 1,466 no votes. The second part of the proposal, which did not pass, was for $1.68 million to improve the Roundhouse Stadium. The first proposal initiated a recount petition submitted by a Gaines Township Resident to the Shiawassee County Clerk’s office in mid-August 2020 – but after the bond was approved, the district was then also coping with COVID-19 pandemic protocols and all the ins-and-outs of in-person and online education.
When asked about any community reaction regarding the bond passing, McCrumb shared that it was “pretty quiet, really.” Even after the bond became a reality, he believed the community was dealing with the challenges of the school year during a pandemic, so an initial feeling of celebration was likely delayed.
“But now, onwards, here we go,” he said. “Now, as staff and parents are starting to see renderings and diagrams, it’s starting to generate a level of excitement.” Regarding the bond, he explained how intensive and time consuming the process was, but going forward into planning, McCrumb shared, “It’s exciting in a different way and it’s a fun way. This is where the excitement is going to build.”
Developing plans, which are regularly evolving toward the point when bids for contractors will soon be sent out, is a part of the process McCrumb is enjoying – though there are challenges. He believes the district will roughly have 2-1/2 years of witnessing the construction of both the RAC and the performing arts center. Construction on the RAC, he hopes, will begin in May 2021 and conclude in June 2022. The performing arts center should tentatively begin construction in May 2022 and progress into 2023.
Regarding the rise in construction costs, McCrumb explained how contingency funds were built into the bond project – a common occurrence in bond planning. He said there are plenty of bidders for jobs right now, so he is hopeful Durand will receive some solid bids. Also, he factors in how construction on the RAC will be enclosed in the winter, which is an attractive amenity for work crews, trying to keep crews working during harsh months. One downside might be premiums paid for construction materials due to the pandemic and economy, with shipping costs on the rise, as well.
McCrumb was pleased to discuss plans regarding the RAC. “Things have evolved and we’re pretty excited. The four-classroom addition to Robert Kerr will extend to the north,” he explained. The four-classroom addition will include a passageway to the RAC, along with double-duty bathrooms to be utilized by Robert Kerr Elementary and the RAC, making the design quite efficient. The RAC will literally be connected to the elementary school. Three of the classrooms will offer traditional classroom settings, with the fourth being used for STEM (STEAM) schooling opportunities.
Students at Robert Kerr and all Durand students will have the privilege of enjoying a state-of-the art athletic, fitness and multi-purpose facility in the RAC – including a gymnasium with an upper level 3-lane track, a 40-by-100 foot fitness center, an enlarged lobby with concessions, and a space above the fitness center for multi-purpose use, perhaps by the cheer squad. The 50-by-25 foot lobby area, with tables and various types of seating, will create a connecting access to the fitness center and gym. Numerous large windows will allow students to see parents/guardians during pick-up situations and also bring in plenty of natural light. The lobby area will also allow for a safe hangout area for visiting athletic or competitive teams during tournaments.
“Our goal here is to get this right,” McCrumb said about all of the planning. “There is a level of pressure and that is exciting, but it is not lost on us to get it right. We want to balance building something that is functional, practical, that makes sense, that is something people can be proud of, but without stepping over the line and saying, boy, that really wasn’t necessary. We want to be respectful of how we’re spending that money and don’t want to cross the line of it being wasteful.”
For more on Durand Area Schools, visit www.durand.k12.mi.us or follow the school district through social media for updates. Read future issues of the Independent as the planning process develops.