Re-2 makes learning cooler |

Re-2 makes learning cooler

RIFLE ” It’s going to be a lot cooler come August at Riverside School in New Castle and Rifle High School in Rifle.

At Tuesday evening’s regular meeting, the Garfield Re-2 School Board and district administrators agreed to negotiate a contract to retrofit both schools with air conditioning systems.

“We need to move on it,” said Re-2 superintendent Gary Pack. “We made a commitment in 2001. We need to make it happen.”

In 2001, voters approved a $39 million bond initiative, which included providing the middle school, high school and the district’s transportation building with air conditioning and upgrading ventilation and heating systems. Preliminary estimates put the cost at $1.3 million.

Since then, however, estimates for the projects have climbed to $2.3 million: $1.6 million for Rifle High School, and $746,000 for Riverside School.

Craig Jay, director of maintenance, said the $1 million difference between the first and current cost estimates occurred because of numerous structural problems that crews discovered in both buildings after voters approved the bond.

“None of these problems was known until after the initial bid was finished,” Jay said. He also explained that new state regulations demand upgrades that weren’t previously required in order for school buildings to pass inspection.

“It wasn’t cost effective initially for people to get inside these buildings and do extensive bidding,” added school board president Vicki VanEngelenburg. “Once the bond passed and we knew we could do the work, crews got into those buildings and discovered extensive duct work problems behind the scenes. It’s not a simple case of buying a chiller and turning on the motor.”

Because of added, unforeseen costs, administrators decided to postpone plans for upgrading the transportation building, which includes the district’s mechanical and welding shops.

“Our main focus is always on the kids,” said architect Gary Prager, of VTBS Architects in Denver, the company that is overseeing the district’s new construction and remodeling.

“So when we realized we had to cut costs, we postponed the transportation building instead of taking anything away from the schools,” he said.

Focusing on student achievement is why the district asked voters to approve air conditioning at the schools in the first place, said Theresa Hamilton, Re-2’s director of districtwide services.

“We give priority to quality learning environments,” Hamilton said. “Some of the rooms at Riverside and Rifle High School can get very oppressive in August and September. It was the right thing to do.”

VanEngelenburg added that district officials want to provide equal environments for all students at all Re-2’s schools.

“Our new school buildings all have air conditioning,” she said. “We didn’t want to penalize students attending our older buildings by not offering them the same air quality.”

Work is expected to take place at both schools during the district’s two-and-a-half month summer break. The schools will be designated construction zones during that time and will be closed to the public.

VanEngelenburg said she and other district administrators received complaints from students, parents and staff at both schools complaining of stifling heat and lack of ventilation in the buildings.

“Lots of parents were very unhappy,” she said. “It’s very hard to learn in that kind of environment.”

Charlie Lee, vice president of Falcon Plumbing and Heating in Grand Junction, attended Tuesday’s meeting, and is now in negotiations with school district staff. Lee will meet with district officials Jan. 27 to discuss approving a contract, and work is expected to be completed by the start of the 2004-05 school year in August.

Other topics discussed at Tuesday’s board meeting include:

– Changing district policy on door-to-door fund-raising by students, especially in kindergarten through fourth grades. Board members agreed to reassess the policy, citing concerns over child safety.

– The district’s approval of $20,000 from the Morgridge Family Advised Fund of the Aspen Valley Community Foundation as part of a $40,000 grant to support the Waterford Early Reading Program at Wamsley Elementary, Highland Elementary, and Kathryn Senor Elementary schools.

– The school board’s approval of $7,200 to resurface portions of the Rifle High School track in February to be ready for spring track meets.

Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. 518

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