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RE-2 Board votes for new school campus

by Bob Kennemer

LA VETA — After a year of research, community input, and crunching numbers, the La Veta Board of Education accepted and voted on Tuesday night to affirm the recommendation by the board’s Facilities Committee – for a new campus to be located on the north end of town. The effort still needs to achieve two related goals, those being a bond issue must pass this fall, and a major grant needs to be won.

La Veta is looking at an entirely new school campus, which will take two years to complete and will cost $31,774,328. However, that cost is about $5 million dollars less the renovation of the current campus. The current facilities do not meet code and would need $10 million to be brought up to code, along with a year to year costly budget to maintain the aging facilities.

With the head of the Facilities Committee, John Albright, out with the flu, board member Matt Dobbs presented the new campus or Greenfield option. “There was overwhelming support for the new campus,” said Dobbs. The LVBOE followed with unanimous support for the new campus. However, there are many hurdles to overcome.

The costs of the new school are beyond the legal amount the district can collect through bonds or other means. The district must then ask for a waiver to ask for more bond funds and also apply for a Building Excellent Schools Today or BEST grant. That grant will pay for the lion’s share of the new campus. The district’s match of the BEST grant is 33% of total project cost, so a $30 million project will require a match of $9.9 million, which the district cannot statutorily raise. If the district runs a bond, the most that can be raised is about $6.5 million, this is a legal limit, as schools cannot pass bonds for more than 20% of their district’s assessed valuation. RE-2’s valuation is currently about $33 million.

Although La Veta’s mayor had raised numerous concerns at a meeting earlier in January, it appears the district feels all of those issues can and will be addressed. The BEST grant will be submitted on February 23, and presented in mid-May. The district will know their rank that same day. The grant then goes to the State Board of Education for final approval, which should be known in late July or early August. If the grant comes through, the bond ballot issue will be voted on in November.

Superintendent Bree Lessar presented a mid-year dashboard to the BOE, which showed that, overall, math and reading goals were below district goals by an average of around 20% to 30% and in some cases even more. The shining light was seen with the 4th and 5th grades, who had reading skills at 93%, which is 3% above the Beginning of Year goal.

The BOE reviewed a funding formula submitted by Lessar. She also briefed the board on current legislative action at the state level to include the Governor’s budget proposal for increased funding of education, along with help for rural districts. HB-1002 would address teacher shortages in rural districts by allowing the districts to offer a teaching fellowship program that help fourth year college students seeking to go into education with additional funds in the form of a $10,000 education cost stipend. The goal is to ensure the new teachers are well equipped to teach and remain in rural areas.

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