School District 51 Board of Education members on Tuesday approved nearly $10 million for construction and renovations at Fruita Monument High School, Central High School and 10 elementary schools.

The projects will be funded by nearly $17 million left over from bond premiums, grant funding and other savings from a 2017 bond measure. School board members have not yet decided how to spend the remaining bond money.

Fruita Monument students will see an $8 million upgrade to their school's main entrance and central corridor.

Over the next year, construction crews will enclose the school's front courtyard to create a single main entry and a large corridor down the school's spine. The project will eliminate 13 exterior doors and put all administration offices near the main entrance, making it far easier to navigate the school, said Principal Todd McClaskey.

With the school's current layout, visitors often wander around and get lost looking for different offices.

"When you consolidate and create a main entry, you alleviate a lot of the security concerns I have," McClaskey said.

Fruita Monument students and staff spoke in support of the project, including physics teacher Caleb Hicks.

Hicks told board members that freshmen often refer to the school as a maze because it's difficult to navigate. There's a spot where five different types of flooring connect because there's so many additions to the school, Hicks said.

"We're not asking for a brand new school, just for a main corridor that will make it feel like a brand new school," Hicks said.

Board member Doug Levinson said he was struck that students asked for the new construction because it would help them to navigate their school and improve safety.

"If you think about what they were asking for, it wasn't anything fancy. It was basic needs," Levinson said. "That's where we're at as a system. Grand Junction High School is the same way, and we just need to provide a reasonable environment for these kids to be in."

Construction is expected to be complete by January 2020.

Central High School will receive $700,000 in upgrades and renovations to boost its science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program. Central became the first STEM-certified campus in Colorado in 2018.

Construction will include remodeling classrooms to fit up to 50 students so that teachers can teach multi-subject courses, like physics and English, as well as building a fabrication laboratory and outdoor classroom.

Appleton, Chatfield, Chipeta, Orchard Avenue, Pomona, Rimrock, Scenic, Shelledy, Tope and Wingate elementary schools will receive $1 million in upgrades so they can accommodate full-day kindergarten.

Just over half of District 51 kindergartners are currently enrolled in full-day classes, but Gov. Jared Polis has requested $227 million from the state legislature to fund full-day kindergarten for every Colorado school district.

The district may be required to build additions at Wingate and Orchard Avenue elementary schools to accommodate full-day kindergarten, said Director of Maintenance Eric Nilsen, which would cost $2 million. That will depend on how school boundary lines are drawn next year, Nilsen said, and how many students are in each school's attendance area.

The construction funding was a last-minute addition to the school board's business meeting agenda and was not posted prior to the meeting. Board President Tom Parrish said it was a oversight and that construction had to be approved Tuesday night in order to start this summer.

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