Glenwood Springs school projects taking shape | PostIndependent.com

Glenwood Springs school projects taking shape

Plans for two Glenwood Springs school projects that are part of the $122 million Roaring Fork School District bond issue OK'd by voters last fall are shaping up, with an eye toward starting construction this summer.

Two separate community presentations last week provided a peek into the design thoughts going into the new Eastbank elementary/middle school south of town, as well as the Glenwood Springs Elementary School renovation and site redesign.

Designers from H&L Architecture, working on the GSES project, and Bennett Wagner Grody Architects on the Eastbank school, have been meeting since early this year with local design advisory groups and contract project managers NV5.

The Eastbank school, at approximately $34.5 million, is the largest of the bond projects, while the GSES remodel comes in at about $29.2 million, including $20 million from bond funds. The remainder of the GSES project is being paid for by a state Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant.

The bond issue, approved by voters in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt last November, also includes school security and a variety of other upgrades at schools districtwide, plus a new transportation facility and $15 million to provide teacher housing in the three communities.

clean slate

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"It's been more than 20 years since this district built a brand new school (from scratch)," RFSD Assistant Superintendent Rob Stein, who takes over as head superintendent in July, said during the Eastbank school presentation on March 31.

The presentation was attended by several young families with children who will likely be among the school's first students.

Added Superintendent Diana Sirko, who will be leaving the district in June to pursue a new job, "a new school will have an enduring effect on the community, and your input is important."

Even the name, Eastbank, is "just a placeholder," Stein said. One of the questions that still needs to be addressed is what to call the new school, he said.

And, though a formal announcement is pending, Stein said the district has hired a principal to help guide programming decisions for the new school and to direct the school once it's open. That's anticipated to be in August 2017.

As for the site layout, architects, working with the advisory group, chose to position the new school on the southeastern portion of the larger 35-acre site. The new school location sits between the County Road 154/Highway 82 intersection to the east, and the Roaring Fork River to the west.

That leaves the northern section of the property available for ball fields and potentially another school in the future, should the district decide to someday split the elementary and middle school sections.

The site would also include access down to the riverbank for class projects, as well as an outdoor classroom area and amphitheater.

The building design concept envisions a shared commons area, including the cafeteria, gymnasium, music and art rooms opening to the commons, and a performance space with a balcony overlook.

Two wings extending toward the river would house separate elementary (pre-kindergarten through fifth grade) and middle school (sixth- through eighth-grade) classrooms.

The school is being designed to accommodate 450 students, including 150 in the middle school grades. It will draw from the southern portion of the Glenwood Springs school attendance area, including the Ironbridge and Westbank neighborhoods, the CMC turnoff area and the Red Canyon and Spring Valley corridors.

One big question that still needs to be answered is whether to build a full-size gymnasium with a regulation basketball court, or go with a smaller gym that would not be used for organized interscholastic sports.

It likely will come down to a question of cost and remaining within the budget. The estimated additional cost for the larger gym is between $500,000 and $750,000, project officials said.

Stein added that, based on the small initial size of the middle school section, any interscholastic sports teams will likely be combined with Glenwood Springs Middle School. That could change as the new school grows, however.

"If we go with the full gym, that means we have to cut somewhere else," Stein added.

The building and site design plans are to be refined over the next couple of months before being finalized. Issues such as solar access for the building, as well as off-site vehicle and pedestrian access concerns and traffic mitigation are to be addressed at a follow-up meeting later this spring.

old meets new

Key to the preliminary design for the Glenwood Elementary School overhaul is to incorporate the historic 1920s school building as the centerpiece for the new school facility.

Architects explained at a separate March 31 presentation that the GSES advisory group grappled with keeping the old classroom building and gymnasium fully or partially intact.

Ultimately, the decision was made to maintain the full integrity of old structure, but with a completely made-over interior.

Modern classroom buildings and common areas would be added on to the south, including a new main entry, and to the west off the back end of the gym area.

Classrooms would be situated in pods around "team" spaces, with lots of natural daylighting and openings to the outdoors, the design team explained. The younger grade levels would be on the main level, and the older kids on the second floor.

A major challenge will be to coordinate the construction of the new sections while classes at the expeditionary learning school will continue to be in session over the course of the 2016-17 school year.

"We anticipate construction will begin this summer and continue for about a year and half and into late 2017," project manager and architect Adam Braunstein said.

Once the current school year concludes, the Bolitho building will be demolished, except for the cafeteria section. It will continue to be used next school year, GSES Principal Audrey Hazelton said.

Eight modular units will be erected on site to serve as temporary classrooms while the new main building is being built, she said.

Safety will be ensured by keeping the construction zones and the active school areas separated with barriers, fencing and setbacks, project officials also said.

The newly reconfigured site, which hinges on a land swap with the city of Glenwood Springs, will give the school district the land to the south extending to the recycling center. That side of the building will include parking and a student drop-off area.

The city will obtain most of the Vogelaar Park portion of the school property to the north, which is being envisioned for residential development as part of the confluence area redevelopment plan.

A path connection from the school grounds across the Rio Grande Trail to the Roaring Fork River will also be maintained, and several outdoor learning spaces, such as a community garden, are being planned.

A regulation-size soccer field is also to be built on the portion of what's now Vogelaar Park that the school would retain.