Durand Area Schools

DURAND — The Durand Area Schools Board of Education is reviewing a $28-million, 30-year bond proposal developed by a citizens committee that would fund the addition of an auxiliary gym, a 600-seat auditorium, as well as district-wide upgrades and repairs to existing facilities.

The board of education will vote on the scope of the bond proposal during its next regular meeting, set for 7 p.m. Dec. 16 at Durand Middle School. If approved, the proposal will go on the ballot for district voters to decide in May.

“Everything on here, this is all driven by the community,” Superintendent Craig McCrumb said Wednesday. “This all started with a group of people that came and wanted to talk to me about practice space for an auxiliary gym (in April). They were like, ‘We’re willing to even put up a steel pole barn, put up some hoops if we have to, we just need space.’ Everything that we’re including is absolutely driven by that citizens group.”

After learning of parents’ concerns in April, McCrumb employed Integrated Designs Inc. (IDI) — a consulting, engineering and architectural firm — to conduct a district-wide needs assessment evaluating the current state of all buildings and grounds.

Integrated Designs agreed to do the assessment at no cost, with the understanding that the district would employ the firm to do the bond work if the measure passes.

Upon completion of the assessment in September, a citizens committee — comprised of parents, teachers, community members, administrators and board of education members — began meeting to provide additional input regarding district needs and desires.

Approximately 60 t0 70 people attended each of the five meetings from September to November, according to McCrumb, as the group worked on the scope of the bond project.

Tuesday night, the board agreed upon roughly “85 percent” of the final scope of the proposal, according to McCrumb. The remaining 15 percent, centered around potential upcoming facility needs, will be determined Dec. 16.

As it stands, the bond proposal would cover the cost of the following:

n The construction of an auxiliary gym/practice facility north of Robert Kerr Elementary, featuring a competition-sized court, a weight room and an indoor track

n The construction of a 600-seat auditorium west of the high school gymnasium

n A three-classroom addition at Robert Kerr Elementary, including a specialized Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) lab for students

n The conversion of existing classroom space into STEM labs at the middle school and high school

n The installation of air conditioning at both Bertha Neal and Robert Kerr Elementary

n Updated lighting, ceilings, cabinetry and flooring at Bertha Neal and Robert Kerr Elementary (as needed)

n A new boiler at the middle school

n Air conditioning control work at the middle school and high school

n Upgrades to computer technology

n Resurfacing of the high school track (Pending an evaluation of the track this week)

n District-wide phone system upgrades to become 911 compliant by 2021

n Updating all facilities to become ADA compliant

The 30-year, 1.24-mill proposal, if advanced by the board of education and approved by district voters in May, would raise taxes, according to McCrumb; the owner of a home with a taxable value of $50,000 would pay approximately $62 per year.

“When we did our polling and asked the question ‘How much do you think a Durand homeowner would be willing to spend? What is the dollar amount?’ We got the number in the range of $50 to $60 per year for a $100,000 house ($50,000 taxable value), that’s across the board,” McCrumb said.

The district would likely withdraw the $28-million bond in a series, cashing in approximately $20-million right away to tackle immediate needs such as the auxiliary gym and STEM spaces, according to McCrumb, while holding off on spending the remaining balance ($8 million) to do additional upgrades.

By conducting the bond in a series, the district would save the owner of a home with a taxable value of $50,000 approximately $9 per year, according to McCrumb.

“Nothing has been firmly decided, but the likelihood is that we would do the auditorium as a part of the second series and that would happen three years out versus right away,” McCrumb said. “Instead of just sitting on it (the money), it’s just another way to be responsible, taking the money when it’s needed versus just taking the money.”

At Robert Kerr Elementary there is currently no gymnasium — physical education class is conducted in a dual purpose space that also serves as the building’s cafeteria, though McCrumb explains the space really doesn’t work well for either and creates issues in scheduling and instruction.

Under the proposed bond, a three-classroom addition at Robert Kerr Elementary would extend north of the building and connect to an auxiliary gym featuring a competition-sized court, a weight room and an indoor track. The additional classroom space would help accommodate a recent influx of students at Robert Kerr. Approximately 37 students were added to the building this year, according to McCrumb.

“Those additional students, plus the addition of a few more special education students, put us in a position where we could really need the additional rooms,” McCrumb said, “especially since we anticipate increased numbers of school of choice students in the next few years.”

The connected auxiliary gym would serve as Robert Kerr’s gymnasium, as well as accommodate weekend athletic tournaments hosted by the district, McCrumb continued.

“When we have facilities like that where we can start hosting things, it brings people into the community and then, of course, they see how nice things are and they see what kind of program we run, it becomes an attractive place potentially,” McCrumb said.

The district would also add a 600-seat auditorium at the high school, the first in the district. The high school currently uses a stage in the cafeteria for performances, according to McCrumb.

“We see this as an opportunity to not only modernize how we do things instructionally and how we do things within our buildings, but also just to provide the community with something that’s been a long time desire,” McCrumb said, noting that an auditorium has been requested by local residents for more than 30 years.

Overall, McCrumb said he’s very excited about the proposal — he views it as an opportunity to take Durand Area Schools to the next level.

“As a district, we feel like we’ve got great momentum. Our academics are coming, what we’re doing with our kids we’re excited about. We feel like the community and the neighboring communities are noticing and we feel like we can be a flagship district,” McCrumb said. “If we can put together this package and pass this then we will have a great combination of practical, useful and needed items that in some cases have been a very long time coming.”

The board of education will vote on whether to move forward with current bond proposal Dec. 16.

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