Plans for GSHS are forward-thinking
Special to the Post Independent
Nearly 30 years ago, I joined an architectural firm specializing in the planning and design of educational facilities. I discovered a passion for creating learning environments that stimulate children’s minds and help them find meaningful direction as they grow. I’ve been rewarded with opportunities to create more than 100 different learning environments and schools.
In 2003, our architecture and planning firm, RTA Inc., was commissioned by the Roaring Fork School District to evaluate the adequacy and condition of existing educational facilities throughout the district. In 2004, after the yearlong community-based planning process, voters overwhelmingly approved the resultant $86 million bond issue.
This February, RTA was asked to plan and design the replacement Glenwood Springs High School. An assembly of design professionals, teachers, school administrators, students, and community members has completed the Schematic Design Phase, successfully addressing the promises made to voters:
Expand site from 14.4 to 20 acres by purchasing adjacent properties
Add on-site parking
Expand athletic/PE fields
Increase capacity from 811 to 850 students and building area from 122,475 to approximately 153,000 square feet
Provide core spaces for future expansion to 1,000 students
Replace most of existing aging or inadequate building
Reuse and renovate approximately 35,000 square feet of existing space
Several Glenwood Springs community members have suggested rebuilding GSHS on a reduced site, adding the Bray property and district’s central administration building, increasing the site area by only 1.2 acres.
The current Schematic Design plan utilizes every square foot of the 20-acre site for educational programs and site requirements and stacks major portions of the new building in multiple-story configurations.
During master planning, RTA evaluated minimum site requirements to rebuild GSHS and allow sufficient future expansion space. Having designed high schools throughout Colorado, we understand national and state standards for high school sites, the majority recommending 30-plus acres (same standard as RFSD). Five states have adopted a 20-acre minimum size with no state recommending less than 20 acres.
RTA recommended to the Glenwood Springs Community Committee that GSHS be reconstructed on the current site only if expanded to approximately 20 acres. After additional study of numerous options, we would not recommend reconstructing GSHS on a reduced site area of approximately 15.6 acres because of the following sacrifices in educational programs and adequacy of the facility:
Reduction in educational programs and building area, diminishing versatile features that allow teaching flexibility to accommodate evolving technology and curriculums.
Additional vertical stacking limits flexibility by isolating learning communities and reducing collaborative, interdisciplinary learning. Classrooms and administration are the only stackable areas, because stacking large spaces like gymnasiums or auditoriums is cost prohibitive.
Compact buildings diminish daylighting opportunities.
A large, singular parking area promotes, rather than reduces congestion.
Reduced opportunity for future expansion to 1,000 students.
Given the reduced site, solving for on-site parking reduces PE/athletic fields; solving for PE/athletic fields reduces on-site parking.
Construction would significantly impact the academic and athletic school year.
District would need to purchase additional land and construct a new administration building.
The proposed new GSHS is a progressive, forward-thinking facility that will serve Glenwood Springs for the next 50 years or more. We encourage community attendance at the next community meeting at 7 p.m. Monday Aug. 29 at the GSHS Media Center to review the current design and provide additional comments.
Pat Ziuchkovski is in charge of the Re-1 project for RTA Architects out of Colorado Springs.
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