Board could vote on Glade Park school soon

Anonymous donor has offered to build facility for free, lease it to district

The District 51 board of education could vote at its Nov. 25 business meeting whether to support a school in the Glade Park area, provided some key questions about the project are answered.

An anonymous donor purchased 198 acres along DS Road and agreed to build a K-2 school that would hold a maximum of 20 students in its first year during fall 2010 and lease the facility to the district for a “reasonable rate,” said Karen Foster, a member of the Glade Park Community School planning committee.

The board would have to decide whether it would fund start-up costs, estimated at $57,000,  as well as an estimated $103,575 in first-year operating costs, said Melissa Callahan deVita, executive director of support services for the district.

“The donor is excited about the school,” said Tree Humbert, a member of the school’s planning committee. “They’re just waiting for a commitment from the district to move forward.”

Before the board can move forward, however, Superintendent Tim Mills said more details are needed on the fiscal impact of the additional school to future district budgets and the school’s curriculum. He also cited the need for assurances that the building would survive the Mesa County planning process and be brought up to school construction codes, and that there would be a written commitment from the donor to see the project through to the end.

If the school were built by a private party, its planning would not fall under some of the exemptions school buildings receive from the county, board member Cindy Enos-Martinez said.

“I’m talking about going through county planning, and that’s not an easy thing to do,” she said.

The school would start with kindergarten through second grade, Foster said, and be built under a campus concept, so the school could build classrooms to expand up to fifth grade.

Board members Harry Butler and Diann Rice questioned how the school could be kept secure, however.

“I personally need some assurance that kids aren’t running across 198 acres from one cabin to the next,” Rice said. “I’m exaggerating, obviously.”

The vision of the school, Humbert said, is to “get kids out and interacting and getting fresh air” with a focus on hands-on learning and agriculture. There is an interest in building a greenhouse at the school and hosting 4-H events, she said.

Rice said the board would need to see a more detailed plan for the school’s curriculum, because the district is committed to standardizing curriculum across schools, and any school in Glade Park shouldn’t
be exempt from that.

The school would take enrollment from Wingate Elementary, which is overcrowded, Callahan deVita said, but assistant superintendent Steve Schultz suggested the board set a minimum required enrollment.

“We wouldn’t open if there were five students,” he said.

Rice and board member Ron Rowley said the Glade Park school could be a good opportunity to alleviate overcrowding in the district as an alternative to the failed $185 million bond, provided the lease price is affordable.

Board President Leslie Kiesler, however, said the budget impact of the school is the most important because the district is facing many “unanswered questions” such as the fate of the state’s mill levy freeze.

Enos-Martinez also questioned what the reaction of voters would be to opening a new school so soon after the bond’s failure.

“Where’s the money coming from?” she said.


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