by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
The Durand Area Schools (DAS) Board of Education and Superintendent Craig McCrumb have decided to move the school system’s 8th-grade back to the middle school and the 5th-grade back to the elementary school for the upcoming school year. Additionally, the high school will change from a seven-period schedule to a six-period schedule. These decisions were made after months of deliberation and input from the community.
Many DAS parents have favored moving the 8th-grade to the middle school for several years, and school officials have finally found a way to make that happen. The move was made possible by the continuing trend of shrinking birth rates, which have steadily declined throughout Michigan since the 1950s. This has led to decreasing enrollment numbers for school systems in Shiawassee County and smaller graduating class sizes.
Some questioned whether Robert Kerr Elementary – which currently houses the school district’s 2nd-, 3rd- and 4th-graders – is big enough to accommodate the 5th-grade, but Superintendent McCrumb assured The Independent that there is “plenty of space,” and he also noted that the move does not spell the end for the school system’s Boxcar after-school daycare program – a key part of the grade realignment decision – although it has not yet been decided if Boxcar will remain in Robert Kerr or be moved elsewhere.
McCrumb shared that the move will benefit everyone involved, and most notably the 5th- and 8th-grade students, who will now be grouped with students closer to their maturity and developmental levels.
“This will be a way better fit for our 5th-graders and 8th-graders,” explained McCrumb. “We believe that 5th-graders are elementary students, not middle schoolers, and there is always a concern when you have 13-year-olds interacting with 18- and 19-year-olds in high school. This move will allow us to better serve the social and emotional development of our students. It will really be a night and day difference for both groups.”
With the high school moving from a seven-hour schedule to a six-hour schedule, the school system is “going back to square one,” shared McCrumb, who expects both teachers and students to benefit from the change.
“This will add nine to 10 minutes to our core classes, which will put our kids and teachers in a better position to be successful,” explained McCrumb. “Those nine or 10 minutes will allow for more guided practice, and more questions and interaction in class, which should also improve test scores. More importantly, re-dedicating this time to our core classes will maximize how much our students learn in their most important classes, and it will set them up better for life after high school.”