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Architects present improvement plans for school district

Two options are on the table for Community School expansion

The Gunnison RE1J school board, teachers and members of the community turned out to hear the latest on the upgrades being planned for the district schools, at a work session on Tuesday, July 1.



It was the first time the public had the chance to see the proposed project in an illustrated form and ask questions of architect Justin Stein and Roy Blythe, principal and owner of the Blythe Group and Company, which is designing and implementing the project.
Tuesday’s discussion focused on the additions and remodeling that could be made to the Gunnison Community School, Crested Butte Community School and the Gunnison High School, which had the Gunnison Valley School diagram attached to it for the purposes of the presentation, if the proposed bond on the November ballot is passed.
The bond could be as much as $65 million and would go to the district’s capital improvement projects. It is the second attempt in as many years by the district to put the bond on the ballot and will be filed in its final form no later than September 4.
Two plans were introduced for the Crested Butte Community School, which is restricted in its growth by space limitations due to its location.
The plan presented Tuesday showed the school overlapping an area that is now occupied by the Villanueva Memorial softball field, which is split between district and town property. For the school to expand according to the plan, the town would have to agree to allow the expansion, which is an option being negotiated.
That linear expansion would add four additions in separate areas of the building. The largest section to the south end of the school would contain additional classrooms, a second gymnasium with weight room and locker rooms and a music room. All of those areas would be shared by the middle school and high school, says Stein, who was the lead designer for the project.
Another addition would be built at the opposite end of the building that would be two stories, with four classrooms and an office upstairs and down for the elementary school. A third addition would provide a computer room and expanded space for the library. The final small addition would provide additional storage, according to Stein.

“What [the ball field] did was really constrict the site and the space that you need for the school. What this [plan] is proposing is the best long-term solution to the school’s needs and provides the best adjacency,” said Blythe, adding that it would require some cooperation from the town.
School board president MJ Vosburg cautioned people not to get too attached to the plan as it was presented. “We’ve been working with the town for a number of months on this but it’s a long way away from happening, so we have to proceed as if we’re not going to get this property, in terms of planning. The spaces we need can fit on the property that we have. It’s not the town’s responsibility to provide space for the school,” said Vosburg, adding that the board will probably have to push ahead with the bond in November not knowing how the situation would turn out.
Other issues the designers were encountering involved the storage of snow in winter, parking in a lot that, according to Blythe, was not designed to hold the number of cars it is now holding, and securing all of the doors during school hours to force students, parents and visitors past a reception desk when entering or leaving the school.
If the school district does not receive the needed land from the town, the other solution would require that the school building, which is divided into three angular sections in the front, have an addition built onto the center section and extended toward the parking lot. That expanded area would have administrator offices, the music room and dining areas, while the six additional classrooms for the high school would be included in an L-shaped addition onto the south end of the building.
In all of the additions the Blythe Group is proposing for the district, they are trying to match the look of the additions with that of the existing building so all looks cohesive, said Stein. There is also an effort to keep separation between the different grades in schools where they occupy the same building, like they do at CBCS.
The designers also discussed concepts for the Gunnison High School. Currently, they’re recommending an addition that would surround more than half of the existing school, while dealing with many space restrictions similar to those encountered at CBCS, said Stein.
An addition to the school would be built for an entrance on the west end, as a secure vestibule that can be locked down during school hours to force people through the main entrance. That glazed-glass atrium will be two stories and hold biology, chemistry and physics laboratories as well as a health classroom and more.
There would also be a covered walkway leading to the bus drop-off, concession and common areas near the existing gymnasium and a second gymnasium that is part of the renovation plan, in the heart of the complex. The auditorium will also get an expansion that will increase seating capacity to 400, up from the current 305 seats, said Stein.
“The building is structurally in pretty good condition and there are just a lot of updates that it needs… This is the hard part and we’ve developed a plan that will work for today’s needs. Then we’ll take all of the programmatic space that is required and we’ll have the cost estimators put together numbers for what it would cost to build a new building,” said Blythe.
The project designers proposed combining the Gunnison Valley School and the new high school, so they could share some of the amenities and some of the more difficult and expensive remodeling, such as the gymnasiums, workshop facilities and kitchen, which can run between $500 to $600 per square foot.
The ultimate decision to combine the schools, however, would have to come from the board, he said.
“Even though they are attached, we tried to keep the separate identities of the two schools,” said Stein. “Part of that is giving them each a distinct entrance, giving them each a distinct parking area, giving them each a distinct courtyard for each to use when the weather is nice. That is what drove the whole scheme.”
There were also renovations and additions proposed for three areas of the Gunnison Community School, including a secure entrance that will funnel people toward the reception desk, an expansion of the kitchen and its associated storage areas, and an expansion of the weight room.
According to Blythe, if the plans for the Gunnison High School project were to be made in the winter and the necessary contractors were ready to go in the spring, the renovations would likely take two summers. The new construction for the additions would take place over the course of a full year.
A shorter timetable was set for the renovations at CBCS, which Blythe said could take place over the course of one summer and, depending on weather, the exterior construction could be completed in one year or less.
The Gunnison Watershed Board of Education will hold public information sessions at noon on July 9, at the Crested Butte Community School and at 4:30 p.m. at the Gunnison High School to increase awareness about the bond issue that will be decided by voters in November.
The Blythe Group will present various plans and options for each site for the upcoming bond initiative. The public is encouraged to attend. For more information, call the school district office at 641-7760.

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