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School district shows interest in growth and housing needs

Modulars set for CB school site to handle expected growth

By Toni Todd

Growth and housing were the inextricably linked topics of discussion at this week’s Gunnison RE1J school board meeting. The district is poised for growth, said RE1J superintendent Doug Tredway, with funding set aside for temporary, modular units at the Crested Butte Community School.

More students means more money from the state, which supports growth, and the district has factored that into its planning projections. The money won’t likely be enough to expand a building, however, so the district also anticipates the need to ask voters for support in the form of a mill levy at some point in the future. Districts projections show that could happen by 2021.

“As [the schools] grow, we plan on buying a modular, two modulars, three modulars prior to the construction phase. We know we are going to grow. It speeds up and it slows down, but we have planned for that growth,” said Tredway. “We have set aside money for modular classrooms.”

Tredway said the district put out a request for proposals to architectural firms not long ago, to help with scoping, and possibly designing for growth.

“We are going to hire RTA Architects. I personally knew five superintendents referenced in their proposal who I could pick up the phone and call. They’re currently working on the Adaptive Sports Center. Valley-wide, we want to know about growth. We want to do a walk-through of the buildings and talk about capacity. They’ll look at safety, roofs, things you know are going to go bad, that we really don’t have funds for. I believe they’re going to tell us we’re closer to capacity in Crested Butte than we are in Gunnison. By May, we’ll probably have a plan from RTA.”

RTA Architects is based in Colorado Springs.

“With growth comes the need for teachers, and teachers need housing,” added Tredway, who has been engaged in the housing conversation since the onset of the One Valley Prosperity Project.

“It has been on our radar for a couple of years. So, I’ve been collecting documents and talking with other superintendents. I’m going to a conference where one of the breakouts is a discussion of housing,” he said. “Teacher housing is a big issue across the state, in really poor districts and in really rich districts.

“We had three teachers this last year who said they’re leaving because they can’t afford to buy a house here,” Tredway added.

“In Gunnison, we’re lucky enough to own some property. We have space here. In Crested Butte, we don’t really have space unless you built a house in the middle of the oval,” he joked.

Tredway emphasized the need to work with developers and with partners in coming up with solutions. He said he’s in regular conversation with Gunnison city manager Russ Forrest and with Crested Butte officials.

“Superintendents across the state have given money to developers,” he said, as an example of an approach that’s working elsewhere.

“Are there other governmental agencies looking at employee housing? Are they working as a group or are they looking to solve their own problems with affordable housing?” asked board member LeAnn Mick.

Tredway assured her there were, and that they were looking at the problem both individually and collectively.

“Russ has put together a coalition for conversations. He’s brought in a consultant for the city. I’ve talked with the county and with the college,” said Tredway. “I’m sure you’ve heard about the Brush Creek affordable housing proposal.

“As you know, I have met with folks both for and against the development. Dale [Orth, school board member] and I both attended the public meeting. Basically, I’m not making a decision,” said Tredway.

“If it happens, we want to be at the table. We want teachers to live there. If it doesn’t happen, I’m going to be in line for the next project that comes along. If it doesn’t happen, we’re in three conversations with other parties.”

Back to the related topic of growth, Tredway re-emphasized the district’s readiness,

“Have we had big bubbles before? Yes. We had a year where we grew by 70 students in Crested Butte and we didn’t think we were going to make it. What’s a harder sell for the public is saying I want to spend X number of dollars to build employee housing,” he continued.

“The highest number I’ve heard is that Brush Creek will bring in 200 kids. That’s a lot of kids,” said board member Lisa Starkebaum.

“Will it change the face of the world? It might,” replied Tredway.

“That’s our job,” said Orth. “To do what the community asks of us as change occurs. It’s not our job to try to shape that. We’re not out there trying to recruit some light manufacturing company to come here. We serve the community.”

Orth suggested that, while affordable rentals are important, options to purchase homes are important, too. People want to know, he said, that if they rent some place for several years, they’ll be able to save up enough to eventually buy a place.

“I’m sure the supporters [of Brush Creek] would love for us to write a letter to the paper supporting it, and those against it would love us to write a letter against it,” said Orth. “It’s not really our business to do that. It’s our business to just be engaged.”

Tredway said that right now, he’s looking at three different options that could materialize into housing for teachers.

“We don’t want to end up with a situation like Aspen where they bus in their teachers from Carbondale,” Tredway said.

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