Recommendation, limited options keep GSHS downtown
The charm of living in a scenic river valley area can become a challenge when it comes to finding a multiacre tract of land to replace a large, aging public facility.That was the task put before a Glenwood Springs Community Committee of 15 local citizens and school district representatives during a nine-month study in 2003 searching for options to rebuild Glenwood Springs High School. As available sections of land in town were reviewed, the choices were reduced due to limited size, steepness, access issues, traffic impacts or high costs.Committee members gave serious consideration to property south of Glenwood Springs just west of Orrison Distributing. The former gravel pit site owned by the Jammaron family seemed viable, but crunching the numbers found the costs would be $5 to $6 million more to develop a high school campus. Parents also were concerned about the safety of students commuting on Highway 82. The Jammaron land is located outside the city’s urban growth boundary and is separated from utilities by an established conservation easement. Development there would require expensive, on-site water and sewage processing systems.”There was no feasible way to get city utilities to that site in a cost-effective manner,” said lead planning architect Pat Ziuchkovski of RTA Architects. After considering all available options and conducting multiple public input meetings, the Glenwood committee unanimously recommended to redevelop the high school at the current site, which required negotiating to purchase six acres of adjacent land. A facilities action committee made up of citizen and school representatives from across the district unanimously approved the group’s recommendation.City planning director Andrew McGregor said the committee made the right decision.”There are just not that many 40-acre parcels with enough flat ground to develop that kind of use,” said McGregor, a municipal planner for 18 years. “All things being equal, there wasn’t a better alternative out there.” Rebuilding the high school at its current location will take advantage of cost savings such as the renovation of the 1950s auditorium for $1 million, saving $2 million compared to a new auditorium. Portions of the high school that were completed in 1996 will be reused.A new GSHS, proposed at almost $34.3 million, would be much larger in square footage than the proposed $18.7 million new Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale in order to accommodate a student body with more than twice as many current students. Planners say a less tangible but positive benefit for the traditional downtown high school location (where the 1915 Garfield County High School also once stood) is maintaining close ties to the community. Other cities also have rebuilt high schools on the same sites such as Steamboat Springs, Cherry Creek and several high schools in Jefferson County, said Kathy Tully, a consultant and retired JeffCo schools property manager. Tully noted a similar example in the $35.5 million planned rebuild of Bear Creek High School in Lakewood on its current location requiring eight acres of land acquisition, including two residences. “The right place for a high school,” McGregor said, “is in the heart of the town.”Suzie Romig is the RFSD’s public information officer.
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