Sierra Grande hosts meeting on new school


BLANCA — On Wednesday, December 13th, Sierra Grande School District Design Advisory Group along with the architectural firms of CSHQA and Aland Ford hosted the second community meeting to discuss the facility master plan, which includes a new PreK-12 School Facility. Forty community members, staff, and design advisory group members attended the meeting in the school auditorium.

Theme boards decorated the auditorium displaying the history and progress of the School District Facilities Master Plan as well as new facility designs. Initiatives to complete a facilities master plan and pursue funding to acquire needed improvements to the current facility started last summer under the direction of the board of education, superintendent, and design advisory group.

After careful consideration and much discussion it was determined that a new PreK-12 School Facility equipped with a Twenty-first Century learning environment is needed. The decision to pursue a new school facility was reached in November by the District Advisory Group and Board of Education and was based on the amount of renovation needed to the current facility to update it to a Twenty-first Century learning environment. 

The meeting began with a summary on the progress of the Facility Master Plans and the latest facility designs. Architect Jim Murray explained to the community members present that the design drawings show the overall facility scheme as well as suggested program areas and square footage, and are not final designs. Design detail has not been determined yet by the Design Advisory Group and Board of Education. 

Architect Alan Ford explained to the community that determining the square footage needed for a new facility is important and that current plans run between 300 and 310 feet per student ratio which makes the facility plans competitive in the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant program. 

Superintendent Darren Edgar addressed the community on the specific aspects of the BEST grant including the district match, which would require a voter-approved bond of more than $12 million. Superintendent Edgar explained that voters would not see such a request on the ballot in 2018 unless the district was successful in acquiring a BEST grant.

Community members had several questions including comments concerning the plans for a new school facility. Among the questions addressed to the architects and the district advisory group concerned the future of the career and technical education programs in the district. 

In addition, questions concerning the future use of the existing school facility and whether the current facility could be salvaged for economic development in the community. One community member stated he felt the current facility was adequate and another asked whether the district or state had considered consolidation due to the cost of a erecting a new facility. The question was answered by district advisory group member and former board of education member Monty Smith who said in his opinion the question of consolidation has been answered by the state of Colorado as other small communities have recently built new schools and that he felt it was in the best interest of the children and community to try to build a new school and ensure students have the same opportunities as students in other schools in Colorado.

Edgar stated that the cost to renovate areas of the facility to bring it up to a twenty-first century learning environment was almost 80 percent of the cost of a new building. He also stated that the time was right to pursue a BEST grant as the program is running out of money to finance large projects such as new schools and that the opportunity may not be there in the near future.

After community members were afforded the opportunity to address questions to the architects, superintendent, and design advisory group the meeting shifted to a breakout session where those present were able to speak one on one with field consultants and group members.

Sierra Grande School District will complete a BEST grant application for the next round of BEST grants and if successful will seek approval from voters for a bond for the district match during the November elections in 2018.                    

Caption: Area residents attend a meeting regarding the proposal for a new school building at Sierra Grande./Photo courtesy of Sierra Grande