Nelson Harvey
Citizen Telegram Contributor
Rifle, CO Colorado

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August 29, 2012
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Community rallies to keep kids cool

A proposed shade structure to give students at Rifle Middle School a place to get out of the midday sun is getting some pro bono help from local building professionals.

The structure, which would measure 24- by 48-feet and be located next to the basketball courts, was designed free of charge by Jeff Johnson of Johnson and Carter Architects in Rifle.

"My partner and I both have two kids in the Re-2 school district, so it's natural that we would help them out," said Johnson.

In addition to designing the structure, Johnson said his firm would shepherd it through the permitting process, and he said he plans to produce a 3D model of the structure to aid in fundraising efforts.

Students at Rifle Middle School, led by 6th grade teacher Chris Miller, are raising money for materials to complete the project. But they won't have to solicit funds for engineering or some aspects of construction, as those services are being donated by engineer Steve Kesler of Westar, Inc. and John Kuersten of Kuersten Construction, respectively.

"The kids have been begging for some kind of shade on our playground for a long time," said Miller, reached in his classroom at the end of a recent school day. "And it was always our plan to make it a community building event. We have such great parents here at our school that we haven't even thought of going to the [school] district or the state for money."

The shade structure, Miller said, is currently in the engineering phase, and no estimates are yet available on its total cost. But students are already planning several fundraisers to help cover it, including concession stands at volleyball and football games and a "Taste of RMS" event in October, where students and parents will offer family culinary specialties for sale.

"We have a lot of projects that are funded this way, through community fundraising," said Theresa Hamilton, director of district-wide services for the district.

The fitness course at the middle school was also funded through donations, she said, and the fundraising model is often used for projects too small to make it onto the district's list of major capital improvements.

"Our facilities director and finance director meet with all the school principals to go over big-ticket things," she said. "I'm guessing this wouldn't be a part of that."

Yet Miller said the plan was always for students to take the lead in raising money for the structure.

"Students get behind the project when they are the ones involved," he said. "We wanted this to come from the students."

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The Post Independent Updated Aug 29, 2012 05:48PM Published Aug 29, 2012 05:46PM Copyright 2012 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.