Glenwood Springs Elementary stays high priority on plan

A possible design for a 79,800 square foot overhaul of Glenwood Springs Elementary.
Staff Photo |

Roaring Fork School District expects to hear this week whether the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program will provide an $8.8 million grant to overhaul Glenwood Springs Elementary School.

If so, it will still need to raise the rest of an estimated $26.6 million for the project. If not, the school remains high on the list of priorities in the Facilities Master Plan, which is scheduled to go before the board of education next month.

When the district last went to the voters with a bond issue in 2004, the district recognized the need for work on GSES, but the work was so significant it was postponed, then put off further due to the recession. Instead, the bond supported a $86 million item in 2004 which helped fund an overhaul of Glenwood Springs High School, a new building for Roaring Fork High and the completion of Crystal River Elementary School.

That’s probably not going to happen this time.

“We really had consensus from the committee that Glenwood Elementary needs to be a top priority,” said RFSD Chief Financial Officer Shannon Pelland.

The money will have to come from somewhere. While the 2011 mill levy override has helped support operations, it can’t be used for capital improvements. The district may need to go to the voters again — and GSES probably won’t be the only need.

As part of the facilities master plan process, the district has identified $170 million in potential fixes around the district, ranging from replacing a boiler to all new facilities. Pelland doesn’t expect to see all, or even most, addressed.

“This is everything people would like to see done in the next 10 years, but we know that we can’t bite it off all at once,” she said. “I cannot imagine that there is a school district anywhere in the country that has addressed 100 percent of its needs. We’re trying to get a sense of what we feel like the community can support.”

With the help of a community design team and several public meetings, the district has identified several top priorities. In addition to the across-the-board desire for enhanced safety and security, better energy efficiency, mechanical upgrades and general maintenance, the team looked at specific needs within each community.

In Glenwood, both elementary schools and the middle school are over capacity, leading the district to contemplate a new K-8 school at East Bank on Highway 82. The school would pull from both Glenwood and Carbondale attendance areas, as well as from planned residential developments along the corridor.

Traffic flow could use improvements at almost every facility, but Basalt Elementary and Middle schools are in particular need of a revamp.

“You really have around 1,000 kids trying to get to school in the morning at the same time, and it’s really tough,” said Superintendent Diana Sirko.

The plan also considers the possibility of a new school at Blue Lake. To do so, they’d have to acquire land from the Crawford family, near a proposed school bus facility intended to replace lots in Carbondale and Basalt.

“They’re amenable to selling us some property to complete that site,” Pelland said. “We’ve been in conversations for many years about that.”

Based on community feedback, the schools would likely be split by grade level instead of service area, unlike Glenwood Springs and Sopris Elementary. The new school might cover K-2, with BES covering 3-5 and BMS hosting 6-8.

Meanwhile, Basalt High School students and faculty have expressed a desire for more gathering and performance spaces. In Carbondale, where most of the buildings are relatively new, the district is contemplating additions to Carbondale Middle School and improvements at Bridges High School.

The exact nature of each remodel would be determined by public input, extensive planning and available funding.

“We rarely would have a building designed before the bond issue passes,” Pelland said. “People want to see a picture of what it’s going to look like, but it’s such a lengthy and expensive design process.”

Pelland thinks now’s the time.

“Interest rates are at a 45-year low, and we’re really starting to see construction cost escalation,” she said. “The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be.”

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