by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor

      On Monday, Dec. 16, the Durand Board of Education approved the scope and language for a $28 million, 30-year bond proposal, which will be put to the voters in the May 5, 2020 election. The proposed bond would increase the district’s millage rate by 1.42 mills.

   If the bond is approved, a homeowner with a taxable value of $50,000 (a house worth $100,000) would see an annual increase of $71 on their taxes. A homeowner with a house worth $75,000 would pay $53.25 more annually in taxes, and a homeowner with a house worth $50,000 would pay an additional $35.50 annually.

   The bond proposal was initiated by a small group of parents that approached Durand Area Schools (DAS) Superintendent Craig McCrumb in May 2018, and a rotating committee of approximately 125 parents, teachers, coaches, community members, administrators and board members worked to determine the bond’s amount, length and scope, under the guidance of IDI Consulting. The group met five times throughout October and November, first working with IGI to assess the school system’s needs, and then prioritizing that long list of needs and deciding the amount and length of the bond proposal.

   The bond proposal calls for infrastructure, technology and safety/security improvements to each of the district’s four school buildings, with a focus on “continuing to develop well-rounded students,” in the words of Sup’t McCrumb. Some of the committee’s higher-priority items include an indoor athletic facility, at a very conservative cost estimate of $7,244,700; a performing arts center for $6,975,000; a new running track for $483,600; and a three-classroom addition to Robert Kerr Elementary for $3,718,512.

   Also included in the bond’s scope is air conditioning for both elementary schools for a combined $788,000; the replacement of the fire alarm systems in three buildings for $781,200; new vestibules for the high school (built in 1964), Robert Kerr (1955) and Bertha Neal (1950) for $1,815,360; phone system upgrades to all four schools and the administration building for $514,000; and classroom technology updates in all four schools for $1.24 million.

   Despite the inherent uncertainty of the bond process, Sup’t McCrumb is optimistic about the proposal’s chances.

   “The best part is, this has been community driven; they came to us because they saw a need,” explained McCrumb. “That says a lot about the community, that people are so willing to invest in the district and the kids. I’m also impressed with the consideration the committee put into the proposal. They didn’t focus on one area or only certain schools; they chose to divide the potential resources to make improvements across the board – in the classrooms, in athletics and in fine arts.”

   The district had been in “survival mode” since the 2008 recession, but now, in his sixth year as superintendent, McCrumb is confident with how things are coming together for the district. When McCrumb was hired in 2014, the district was still trying to right itself financially, while dealing with consistently declining enrollment and per-pupil funding cuts. Since then, by right-sizing and exercising fiscal responsibility, McCrumb and the district’s board of education have been able to grow the school system’s general fund to $1.7 million.

   More information about the bond proposal, including a detailed list of project line items, can be found on the Durand Area Schools homepage, at www.durand.k12.mi.us.

Durand School Board Approves Bond Language was last modified: January 6th, 2020 by Karen Elford