Opinions 

4/1/2003

Head of the class

By Kendra E. Fish
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — The skeletons of two new elementary schools will begin to take form this summer.

In June, Elementary 21, which will be about a mile east of Interstate 25 off of Weld County roads 11 and 18, and Elementary 22, north of 17th Avenue near Red Cloud Road, will start becoming a reality.

Both schools are scheduled to be finished in June 2004 and ready to open in August for the 2004-05 school year.

Currently, the schools exist only on paper and the district is still working on designs and landscaping, finalizing paperwork, working on utilities and road access, said Rex Hartman, director of operations and maintenance for the St. Vrain Valley School District.

The process of bidding for general contractors, or the the main construction crew, will begin in May, he said.

The design

The schools will look similar to three existing district elementary schools: Prairie Ridge, Eagle Crest and Fall River.

LKA Partners Inc., an architectural firm based in Colorado Springs and Denver, designed those three buildings and was chosen by the district to draw up plans for the two new elementary schools. The district is using the same design to save time and money, Hartman said, and because it is still functional and fits with district educational plans.

Each new building will be 50,820 square feet, with 20 classrooms at 850 square feet each.

The design used for the three newest schools consists of three “pod” areas, with each pod consisting of a commons room and four to five classrooms. There also are classrooms that ring the central office area.

An updated version for the two new schools will allow for up to two additional classrooms in each pod if student growth at the school exceeds capacity. If that is necessary, storage rooms at the ends of each pod could be converted to small hallways leading to the new classrooms.

“We are seeing the need to be more flexible,” Hartman said.

The new design also will allow more space for a computer lab and will increase the square footage of the cafeteria.

“Say you were to build a house based on the same design six times,” Hartman said. “Every time you build it, you would make some improvements.”

Nancy Hurianek, the principal at Prairie Ridge, and Grant Schmidt, the principal at Fall River, sat in on design discussions to offer their advice.

“We told (the design committee) what we have experienced with our building and what we have learned,” Hurianek said. “It is a very functional floor plan.”

Both she and Schmidt were glad to see added cafeteria space. Currently, staff at Prairie Ridge and Fall River have to be creative with lunch because of small cafeterias and large numbers of students.

Staffing

The cost to staff Elementary No. 21 will be minimal, according to Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Tom Garcia.

As Prairie Ridge continues to grow, the district has added staff to keep up with the number of students.

“We’ve been adding staff as we go along,” he said, explaining that because of size, Prairie Ridge has an assistant principal. When the new school opens, Garcia continued, student numbers should go down, meaning only one principal will be needed.

If the current assistant principal became principal at Elementary 21 — being hired as early as January 2004 — the district would have to cover only the pay raise. Teachers at Prairie Ridge also would move over to the new school.

Because of the district’s financial crisis, there is a hiring freeze, but new teachers can be hired to accommodate growth.

Based on current estimates, the school also will need to hire three additional support staff, which could include secretaries, custodians and transportation staff. The school also might need to hire three licensed staff for special education, gifted and talented programs, physical education or music.

The district would need to spend about $312,000 per year in salary and benefits to staff the new school.

Staffing at Elementary 22 will be more expensive because Fall River has not experienced as much growth as Prairie Ridge, Garcia said, meaning more new staff will have to be hired rather than being moved over.

Fall River does not have an assistant principal, which means the district will have to pay the full salary and benefits for a new principal.

Based on current estimates, the district will have openings for one clerical, nine support staff and six licensed staff positions at Elementary 22, Garcia said. The district will need to spend about $782,000 yearly to staff the school.

According to Hartman, annual utility costs could be $52,400 at each building, an amount based on Fall River’s current utility costs.

Boundaries

The process of determining school boundaries will begin in October, according to Scott Toillion, the district’s planning specialist.

Residents and district officials on the long-range planning committee will come up with two or three boundary scenarios, Toillion said.

“They then will make recommendations to the board of education, who will hold public hearings on the matter,” he said.

After these meetings, the board will come up with final boundaries in February.

Under district open enrollment policies, “current fourth-graders (or fifth-graders where a K-6 is involved) who would be moved into a new attendance area by a boundary change would be able to open enroll back to their current school for their final year.”

Other students will be required to attend the school within their boundaries.

Kendra Fish can be reached at 303-776-2244, Ext. 211.

 

 
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