Two Rivers school eyes building purchase, expansion
Two Rivers Community School in West Glenwood is thinking to the future as it prepares to wrap up its second year as a state-sanctioned public charter school serving kindergarten through eighth grade students from throughout Garfield County.
The 210-student school is in the process of securing a loan to purchase the former U.S. Postal Service mail sorting warehouse at the corner of Storm King and Donegan roads that it now leases from a private owner.
It also has conceptual plans on the table that call for a complete remodel of the existing, 21,000-square-foot classroom space, plus a new 9,150-square-foot addition that will allow for a new preschool program.
Exact costs to complete the project are still being determined, but the first step will be to acquire the building, said Adriana Hire, director of business and outreach for TRCS.
“It really is critical to secure this building in order to do the things we want to do,” Hire said, adding the building lease would otherwise need to be renewed next year.
To do that, the school will have to borrow the money and match that through a capital campaign, she said.
Unlike school district-supported public schools, charter schools are not able to go to voters to tap local property taxes to pay for facilities. Charters derive most of their operational funding from the per-pupil tax dollars they receive from the state, but any capital projects either have to be paid for through grants or through private funding.
And, because the school is not yet five years old, it doesn’t qualify for state grant resources such as the Building Better Schools Today (BEST) program, Hire also explained.
“As a newer charter school, funding is an issue for us if we want to do any expansion,” she said. “But we will find a way to do it.”
TRCS has grown in two years to including the addition of eighth grade this school year and the school’s first official eighth-grade cultural immersion trip to Mexico, which took place in February. The annual trip to a Spanish-speaking country is a key part of the school’s hands-on, place-based approach to learning, with an emphasis on English-Spanish bilingual education.
The school’s charter is also up for renewal before the Colorado Charter School Institute next year, at which time it will be asking to expand the number of students it can serve, Hire said. The building expansion will be necessary in order to accomplish that.
TRCS is working with the design-build team of JHL Constructors and HCM Architects, which specializes in charter school projects, and with owner’s representative Michelle Fisher of Denver-based DCS consultants.
Parents, teachers, students and other community members were invited to take a look at the conceptual plans at a pair of formal presentations last week.
Plans calls for a complete remodel of the interior of the existing building to create 15 fully walled-in classrooms that will accommodate grades one through eight, plus an office area. The former warehouse space is now partitioned into open-air classroom spaces using six-foot-tall dividers.
The existing former loading dock bay doors are to be replaced with new, roll-up glass doors opening onto a south-facing outdoor deck that can be used for outdoor activities. Part of that area would be turned into a larger “makers” space, for a variety of hands-on art, science and technology projects.
“One of our goals is to make it as green as possible and to utilize what’s already here,” Hire said.
The new addition would accommodate the kindergarten classes and a new preschool program for up to 16 students to start, she said.
“There is always a need for high-quality preschool programs in the area, and it’s important for us to attract some of the low-income families,” Hire said. “We all know how important early childhood education is, and we believe our bilingual aspect will be an added attraction.”
The addition would also include a commons area and “hybrid kitchen.” The school currently does not have a kitchen, meaning meals have to be catered from off site. The kitchen will allow some food preparation to take place on site, she said.
Also being designed as part of the addition will be a “green roof,” with outdoor gardens and other vegetation and an outdoor classroom that can be incorporated into the school’s curriculum.
The existing building and new addition are also to be fully equipped for technology needs. Depending on the fund-raising efforts, the goal is to build the new addition during the next school year and to complete the renovation of the existing building during the summer of 2017 in order to be ready for students when school starts up that fall.
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