New Glenwood high school creates windows of opportunity |

New Glenwood high school creates windows of opportunity

Heavy use of windows in an expanded Glenwood Springs High School will make for a safer facility that encourages learning, GSHS principal Paul Freeman said Monday night.

Speaking at a design open house at GSHS, which was attended by about 40 people, Freeman said natural light is more pleasant and also has been shown to improve the ability of students to study.

“This building is designed to capture as much natural light as possible,” he said.

Lots of glass will contribute to a feeling of openness in the building and better enable staff to keep an eye on things.

“That contributes enormously to the sense of security and safety in the building,” Freeman said.

In an era of increased concern over school safety and security, GSHS officials also plan to have better control over access points to the building. They will be able to lock down certain areas of the building at certain times of day, rather than having to leave much of it open when only some facilities are being used.

Incorporating a lot of glass into the school’s design also will make it a passive solar facility.

“In general terms, to have light is going to be good for the kids, and not to have to use electricity to light the building is going to be good for the taxpayer’s wallet,” Freeman said.

While the new building design might give GSHS students a better view of the world around them, Elaine Hallett doesn’t like some of what she sees at GSHS.

Hallett lives across 14th Street from the school and said the student parking lot is often trash-filled. Also, under the new design plan, its exit would be directly in front of her house, making it hard for her to get out of her driveway when school is dismissed, she said.

“You know what it’s like when school lets out. It’s chaos,” she said.

Architects involved with the plan said they can revisit the parking lot plan with traffic engineers. And Freeman said the school needs to remain in contact with Hallett and other neighbors who have concerns about the school so officials can address them.

“We need and expect community members to say ‘this isn’t working for us and we need some help on this,'” he said.

Freeman acknowledged speeding by students on Pitkin Avenue as another valid concern.

The amount of parking planned for the school has been a concern to some in Glenwood Springs. Freeman said part of the problem is that students are involved in activities from before school until sometimes well into the night, making it hard to take a bus.

He said he would have liked to have seen parking built under the school buildings, but that would have been cost-prohibitive.

The expansion’s budget is $27.5 million. It is the most expensive project being built through an $86 million bond issue passed by Roaring Fork Re-1 School District voters last fall to fund construction at schools from Glenwood Springs to Basalt.

The high school will be 164,000 square feet and take up 16.5 acres.

Among some of the other aspects of the school design discussed Monday:

Classrooms will be 20 percent larger. Freeman said it is sometimes hard now to fit all the required desks into existing classrooms. The number of instructional classrooms will increase from 20 to 24. The construction project will boost building capacity to 870 students from 803, and provide the ability to increase capacity later to 1,000 students.

The building will have a new main gym and an auxiliary gym consisting of what is the current main gym. Freeman said somehow people have gotten the impression the school would have three gyms, which isn’t the case.

The school is being built with multiple stories where possible.

However, athletic and theatrical facilities can’t practically be built on top of each other. Some critics of the district’s plans for ousting local businesses to expand the high school have said the businesses could be saved if the school was built up rather than out.

n The construction plan calls for building a new classroom addition first, then doing work to redesign existing facilities after students have been able to move into the new addition.

n Finally, there’s no truth to the rumor that a Starbucks may be opening in the high school. However, DECA students who now sell snacks may look at getting into the coffee vending business, Freeman said.

Tresi Houpt, a Glenwood Springs resident and Garfield County commissioner, praised the high school plan.

“It’s creative. It’s truly, in my mind as a parent, it’s looking at students’ needs. … I’m thrilled at the components you’ve worked into this,” she said.

She said the site of the planned expansion has never been ideal because of the limited acreage, but it’s where the community wanted the school to remain.

“The size constraint has always been a challenge and I think what you’ve done with it is remarkable,” she told district officials and architects.

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