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RE-2 Schools moving forward with facilities taskforce review of a possible new campus

Other choices include remodeling the current campus or repairs as needed (Part one of two)

by Bob Kennemer

LA VETA — The bulk of the RE-2 Board of Education meeting this past Monday focused on the need to replace or rebuild the district’s aging facilities. For the past year, a facilities task force, headed by board member and facilities chair John Albright, has been reviewing and discussing the options for dealing with the fact most of the current school buildings are at their life’s end and must be repaired, renovated or rebuilt. All of these choice come with costs and several other issues.

Albright stressed, from the beginning, his committee has yet to make up its mind as to which path is the most prudent and that public input has been, and will continue to be, crucial in the decision making process. On several occasions over the past year, the facilities committee, along with local citizens, have been meeting to discuss the options and tour the existing school buildings. These recent findings, as well as studies from the past, have been filed with the Colorado Department of Education, between 2008 to 2015.

During the recent reviews, the committee expanded, adding teachers, booster club representatives, and La Veta School Foundation President Annalee Hickey. In February of this

year, the committee learned the cost to bring the current buildings up to code would be $10 million, which is above the district’s bonding capacity as determined by state statute.

If the district runs a bond, the most it can get by running the bonds is $6.5 million. This is a legal limit as schools cannot pass bonds for more than 20% of their districts assessed evaluation. Should the district bond to its capacity of $33M that would cost taxpayers $115 per year for each $100K of assessed household property? Business and agricultural rates would differ.

However, the district can (and will) apply to the Colorado Department of Education for a BEST grant (Building Excellent Schools Today) for capital construction. The grant is due February 23, 2018. The district’s match is 30% of the total project cost, so a $30 million project will require a $9 million match, which the district cannot statutorily raise. Thus, the district can apply for a statutory waiver of the required match. This can be hard to do but it was noted this situation is not all that unusual.

To this end, the district has assigned a liaison to the CDE BEST capital construction program. The BEST program requires a formal facilities master plan for large dollar requests and seems to favor grants with a “50 year” solution. In March of 2018, the facilities committee toured schools in Moffat and Antonito, which had recently received BEST grants. RE-2 then hired the architectural firm Bennet, Wagner, and Grody to assist with this effort with their outside expertise. BWG began the master planning process in August.

It was then determined it would take more than $10 million dollars to fix current deficiencies in the school’s buildings, and these costs would continue as the facilities aged. Public meetings were held on October 16, 30 and December 6.

A fourth meeting is scheduled for January 8, 2018, at the BOE’s regular meeting.

Superintendent Bree Lessar stressed the committee is at a conceptual phase, not at a phase where architectural designs are being made, adding, “We need to do this. This is not something we want to do. We will be coming to the taxpayers no matter what.”

BWG developed five options: A1, A2, B, C and D. Four of these options were to remodel current facilities. Two of the options rely on closing Garland Street, which runs through the campus. One option was to build a new campus on school property north of La Veta adjacent to the new football field. This is called Option C.

On December 6, the taskforce met with school staff. Following that session, the taskforce determined that it would choose between options considered best for meeting the district’s needs. The Greenfield Site (now Option C) was one. The other was The Garland Street Site, or Option D, to include a comprehensive remodel that also includes a partial demolition and rebuild of the K-8 school. This would require the closing of Garland St. between Main and Birch.

Both of these options are built with growth in mind and both could include updates to the football field/track, but do not do so at this time. The new space is designed for computers to be used in classrooms and common spaces rather than traditional computer labs. The new space includes areas for art, music, and performance, science labs, Vo-Ag/Shop space and teacher collaboration areas.

In comparing costs, BWG estimated that both options would run about $30 million. However GE Johnson (a construction firm reviewing the project) noted that there would be an additional cost of $5.5 million to bring the envelope and new roofing to the old gym, as well as to bring the space up to existing energy efficiency standards.

Next week: The story continues with discussion of the below and more:

• How will a possible new campus affect student travel?

• What happens to the old campus if a new campus is built?

• Can we, and should we, save the old gym? • Can the Roger Brunelli Gym still be used?

• If we stay at the current campus, how will construction affect student learning, foo

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