Building Success Stories

Overcoming Obstacles to Improve Education

Posted March 30, 2015 in Client Stories, Project Updates

The Buchanan Community Schools of Buchanan, Michigan needed a change. It was time for their facilities to get a new look, one optimized for learning and student comfort. There was just one problem—the bond that would provide the funding for these renovations hadn’t passed.

Raising community support in the early stages

Superintendent and Curriculum Director Andrea van der Laan brought together teachers, parents, and community groups to help brainstorm ideas for the schools’ renovations. Then, she brought in Skillman as the Construction Manager to provide pre-bond, pre-construction and construction support.  Together, along with a local architecture firm, we worked on a plan of action, starting with getting the bond to pass.

“Skillman and the architects worked with us to create flyers, pamphlets, and PowerPoint presentations—they even trained community members on the presentations so everyone knew what was going on,” van der Laan says. “They made phone calls to voters and helped us the entire way. I was impressed.”

 Working as a team with van der Laan and Buchanan community members, we made an impact in the vote by getting the word out. Ultimately, the bond passed, allowing plans for restorations and updates to begin.

 Maintaining the owners’ vision from start to finish

One of Buchanan Community Schools’ most important updates planned to focus on the Ottowa Elementary School. They wanted to build flexible, collaborative workspaces for their students and instructors, which is a relatively new and unique approach for an elementary school. But budgets were a looming factor in what was possible, that’s where Skillman came in. Project Manager Courtney James kept things on task and on budget for BCS, giving them the confidence and control they needed and allowing them to create their desired learning environment.

“Skillman helped us look for things that would help us stay on budget without losing our vision,” van der Laan says. “If they saw something in the specs they didn’t think we needed, they’d say so and as a team, we would work around it and stick to our plans.”

Delivering above and beyond on a deadline

Today, Buchanan High School and Middle School are on their way to completion and we’ve incorporated technology upgrades such as new fiber lines, telephones and system updates into the budget. With a completion date set for this summer, students will be able to return to school with fast, reliable Internet access.

The Buchanan Community Schools project has truly been a joint effort between our team, the architects, and the school system. We faced uncertainty in the beginning, but by working together, we built a project that met the vision of the community.

“I said they’d have to hold my hand through this,” van der Laan says. “And they did!”