Explaining a $33 million bond proposal

School district officials answer voters’ questions

Deb Hurley Brobst
dbrobst@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/30/21

Clear Creek residents asked a host of questions at community meetings in the last two weeks to get a better understanding of the condition of Clear Creek School District buildings and of the $33 …

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Explaining a $33 million bond proposal

School district officials answer voters’ questions

Posted

Clear Creek residents asked a host of questions at community meetings in the last two weeks to get a better understanding of the condition of Clear Creek School District buildings and of the $33 million bond the school board is considering putting on the November ballot.

A handful of people attended each of the school board’s meetings at its schools. Some asked about why the former middle school in Idaho Springs — known as Building 103 — would be the better choice for an elementary school, what the district was planning for its bus maintenance facility once the current property is sold and how the district will increase enrollment if it gets the bond funding to improve buildings.

District officials say maintenance at the four buildings has been postponed for years, leading to millions of dollars in necessary repairs. In addition, Carlson Elementary, which is 83 years old, is not as safe as it could be because of its location, and there’s no place for a parking drop-off location for parents.

If the district received a $33 million bond, officials have said it would likely be spent in this way:

• $1.25 million at King-Murphy Elementary School for pre-kindergarten room expansion, gymnasium floor renovation, security improvements, exterior repairs and more;

• $500,000 at the middle/high school for athletic field lights, gymnasium floor improvements and security improvements;

• $750,000 at Georgetown Community School to finish roof replacement, exterior and interior improvements, and a commercial kitchen so the school can offer a hot breakfast and lunch program.

• $28.5 million to renovate Building 103 into an elementary school.

Property taxpayers would pay an additional $36 per $100,000 of home value, and commercial property taxpayers would pay $100 per $100,000 of commercial property value if voters approve the measure. The bond would be repaid in 25 years.

Superintendent Karen Quanbeck noted that the last time voters approved a property-tax increase for buildings was in 1999 to pay for the Floyd Hill school building. The bond approved by voters in 2018 did not increase property taxes; it continued the Floyd Hill bond property-tax payments for an additional five years to pay for buses, elementary school playgrounds, the CCHS athletic field and more.

The school board will decide at its Aug. 17 meeting whether to put the new bond on the November ballot. The board meets at 6 p.m. Details are available at ccsdre1.org.

Carlson vs. Building 103 questions

• “When the high school was built, they said, `Build it, and (students) will come.’ But they didn’t. Why will the new elementary school be any different?” an attendee at the King-Murphy Elementary School meeting asked.

Quanbeck said there was no guarantee that improving schools would increase enrollment, which is at about 650. Clear Creek’s enrollment has been declining for more than a decade, and she noted that 200 students who live in the county attend schools in neighboring districts.

She said the county’s aging population, hot real estate market and competing school districts factor into enrollment. However, she noted that students attending school here deserve inspiring buildings that help them learn.

• Quanbeck said there was no plan to consolidate elementary schools both because the district believed in neighborhood schools and because the county is so spread out, youngsters would be on buses a long time to get to a consolidated school.

Instead, she said Building 103 could become much more in addition to an elementary school if it is renovated. District officials discuss infant and toddler care, how the top floor’s theater and music rooms could be used by a community theater group, college classes and more — all with separate entrances for school safety.

“What we know now is Building 103 has amazing potential,” Quanbeck said. “It’s an amazing location tucked into the mountainside.”

However, if the district renovates Building 103, the remainder of the building would not be renter ready, though the asbestos abatement would be complete in the entire building, she said.

• The new Carlson playground was designed so it can be moved to Building 103.

• Quanbeck said the district would look into the cost to demolish Building 103 including the $2 million for asbestos abatement so it could potentially sell an empty lot, with a member of the audience wondering if that would be better for the district. That would mean remodeling Carlson Elementary.

“As we think about education and experiential learning, a building tucked in the mountains is a better decision than surrounded by a gas station,” school board member Kelly Flenniken said. “We don’t believe renovating Carlson, which was built in the 1930s, is the most fiscally responsible decision.”

• The school district has a verbal commitment from CDOT that it will build a pedestrian bridge over Interstate 70, and school officials are trying to get that commitment in writing.

Responses to other questions

• Board members said they didn’t want to wait another year to ask voters for a bond because costs continue to increase and building needs continue to grow.

• Lights at the football field at the high school would be beneficial for night games and for practices, Maintenance Director Justin Watanabe said. Shorter days mean less practice time unless the field is lit.

• The bus barn property, which is expected to be sold to Four Points Development, has a lease-back clause, so the district has 22 months to find a new location for the vehicle maintenance facility.

Proceeds for the property sale, board president Mitch Houston said, will pay for the new bus maintenance facility, and district officials are considering some of the Building 103 property or a location on Floyd Hill for the facility. The district has 14 buses, 15 small vehicles and four maintenance trucks.

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