Highland Elementary a castle in the making | PostIndependent.com

Highland Elementary a castle in the making

Carrie Click
Post Independent Staff

RIFLE – Gary Pack, Garfield School District Re-2 superintendent, has a shiny white hard hat always at the ready.

It’s a good thing. Pack is in the midst of seven construction projects in his district.

The biggest project currently under construction is Rifle’s new Highland Elementary School. With hard hat firmly in place, Pack toured the building on Tuesday morning with Craig Jay, Re-2’s director of maintenance, and Tom Scoble, Highland’s job superintendent for Shaw Construction out of Grand Junction.

“We’re on schedule and under budget,” Pack said. “We’ll be open for school in August 2003. We’ve kept with a pretty aggressive schedule.”

The campus will likely look like a castle’s grounds in stature to the pre-K through fourth-graders who will attend Highland this fall. The 10-acre school yard is filled with mud but will eventually be covered with sod, playground equipment and basketball hoops.

The building tops out at 62,000 square feet – currently the largest school building in the district. It will house up to 500 students, from pre-K through fourth grade, when its doors open for school this fall. Pack expects 450 students on the first day of school.

Pack complimented Scoble for staying on schedule, which is a result of lots of manpower putting in lots of hours.

“We’ve had anywhere from 40 to 65 people working on this building five to six days a week since we broke ground last June,” Scoble said.

Although Shaw Construction is based out of town, Scoble said nearly all the subcontractors came from the local region.

“We hire locals,” he said. “It’s important to keep the work here.”

Lots of locals were working hard on Tuesday as Pack toured the outside of the building and took a look around inside. The building’s roof is on and concrete floor is laid. Drywall is up and windows are in. But don’t look for blackboards. When the time comes, “whiteboards” will be installed in their place. Pack said some children are allergic to chalk dust. Plus, with multi-colored markers, Pack said, whiteboards are easier for kids to see.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518


Pre-K and kindergartners will be situated at the far west end of the building in their own wing. Adjacent to them on the first floor will be the first- and second-grade classrooms. Third- and fourth-graders will be on the second floor, with windows that look out on neighborhood houses to the north and mountains and fields to the south.

The central portion of the school houses administration offices, a 2,800-square-foot library and media center, a teacher workroom, a massive gymnasium complete with a stage that doubles as an auditorium that can seat 400, and a cafeteria.

Besides Highland, Re-2 has hired Brown Construction from Denver and local subcontractors for a renovation project at Wamsley Elementary School north of town. A new warehouse storage building has just been completed next to Wamsley, so the district can buy supplies and food in bulk, saving on costs, said Pack.

This June, a major renovation project will start at Rifle Middle School, while portions of Esma Lewis Elementary School will be torn down to make way for 45,000 square feet of new school structures. Pack said the portable classrooms at the middle school site will be eliminated as well.

Kathryn Senor Elementary School in New Castle is adding eight classrooms to its building. And then there’s the new Coal Ridge High School between Silt and New Castle that Pack said is slated to break ground this summer.

With all this construction, it looks like Pack should keep that hard hat close at hand.

“We’re growing,” said Pack. “We’re the only school district from the Eisenhower Tunnel to the Utah border that is growing. The other districts have stable numbers or they’re losing students. We have to keep up.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.