This past Monday night at a special board meeting, the District 51 Board of Education voted to place language on the November, 2019, ballot seeking voter approval for a $179.5 million bond. The bond money will be used to replace Grand Junction High School and to secure and modernize Central High School, Fruita Monument High School and Palisade High School. While some voters may be surprised by the news, the process has been ongoing for more than two years and the subject of many public meetings.
Our process included a detailed analysis from the District 51 maintenance staff, a thorough look at the safety of our high schools by a Safety Committee, and a year-long effort by a Long Range Planning Committee led by a team of architects and engineers who took a deep dive into the condition of our schools. Importantly, the Safety Committee and Long Range Planning Committee included many members of the community.
The number one recommendation from the Safety Committee was to invest in making our high schools safe and secure, and specifically to provide for a single entrance into each. The number one recommendation from the Long Range Planning Committee was to focus on the replacement and modernization of our high schools before these buildings become useless due to age. Even though many of our elementary schools and middle school are just as old, the top priority stated by both committees was to make our high schools safe and functional for kids.
The Board of Education has determined from the totality of this effort that Grand Junction High School, built in 1956, is in miserable shape, is not structurally sound, and cannot be rehabilitated. It is beyond its useful life and it would be a waste of money to further repair. Fruita Monument and Central are almost as old as Junction, but are structurally sound. The engineers and architects tell us that both Central and Fruita can be modernized with some targeted investment, resulting in the useful life for each to be extended by another 20-plus years. The Safety Committee and the Long Range Planning Committee both stressed that an investment into Central High School and Fruita Monument should focus on connecting the separate buildings on each campus into one structure and replacing the many entrances at each school with a single point of entry. Last, we learned that Palisade High School, our newest high school at 27 years old, also needs modernization of classrooms and a unification of its three buildings into one structure with a single point of entry.
The Board of Education next asked its architects and contractors to give us good cost estimates to complete these projects. We told these experts to make sure that we use the funds we now have that are already earmarked for roof repairs at GJHS and funds that we anticipate will be saved from the 2017 bond due to good construction management to reduce the total bond cost to the lowest possible amount.
The final factors in tipping the vote for the Board of Education were that we will be able to fully install fire prevention sprinkling systems in all of the high schools and enable the Fruita schools to accommodate the huge growth in the Fruita area. If passed, Fruita Monument will become a 9-12 high school, enabling the Fruita 8-9 school to be a three grade middle school.
The bond will make our high school buildings more safe and secure, will extend the life of each building, and improve the educational environment and opportunities for all our high school students and teachers. We know that a tax issue is not an easy ask in our community. But, after all of the facts and issues we considered in our public meetings over the last two years, and looking into the future of our schools and kids, it is the right thing to do and now is the right time to do it.
Each of us will be responsive to questions about the process we went through and the result. Please email us at our email addresses posted on the D51 website. Better yet, we would enjoy your attendance at any of our twice monthly board meetings.
Tom Parrish, President