Crested Butte Community School expansion plans

Green space to stay. Regulation-sized soccer field could be in the works

By Cayla Vidmar

The local school district is tackling a master plan to address the growth of the student population at Crested Butte Community School. After soliciting community input this spring, the board continues to weigh the benefits of either expanding the current facility or adding a second building in a different location.

At the April 23 meeting, the first iterations of the plans were unveiled, including multiple onsite plans that removed the existing soccer field, and an offsite plan that could be located in Crested Butte South. On June 13, Doug Abernathy, lead architect with RTA Architects, revealed two revised site plans based on community input from the April meeting. The plans included one onsite plan that allows the soccer field to remain, and one offsite plan.

At the April meeting, there was a long discussion and community disapproval for the elimination of the soccer field with the proposed expansion. At the latest meeting Abernathy addressed those concerns, stating, “Preservation of green space and athletic fields is something that came up at the last meeting. One of the things that’s being talked about between the school and the town right now is actually removing the existing track.” This would expand the soccer field to be a CHSAA  (Colorado High School Activities Association) regulation-sized field, and the onsite building expansion plan no longer removes the soccer field.

Over the course of seven master plan meetings, the Planning Assistance Team discussed district and school strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. “We talked about demographics, we did individual school evaluations and from there we started talking about individual school solutions,” said Abernathy. Opportunities include things that benefit the school or could be utilized more, including green space, association with Western State Colorado University, and community involvement. Challenges include affordable housing, vehicle circulation, and safety and security.

“The thing that came up in multiple categories is how is the district is going to deal with affordable housing and attracting and retaining teachers, because the cost of living continues to go up, so how are you going to deal with that long-term,” said Abernathy. At the March 12 school board meeting, the district voted unanimously to purchase a duplex for employee housing, in collaboration with the town of Crested Butte.

The next issue was how to improve the vehicular circulation around the school for buses, parents, and pedestrian traffic. “We had a meeting before this with the town, and we’re talking about how to improve vehicular and bike access to the school from the town, which we’re working to address right now,” stated Abernathy.

One proposal to address circulation is connecting Eighth Street to the school parking lot and creating a four-way intersection. “The thought of moving the entrance to the parking lot to Eighth Street is that it would give cars more room to line up than the current entrance,” writes Gunnison Watershed School District superintendent Doug Tredway.

Safety and security remain at the top of the list of issues to address. One such improvement includes window glazing, which prevents windows from shattering when hit. “Some glazing exists that can stop a small amount of bullet fire, and there is also some glazing that has a film that keeps it from breaking and from people being able to break it and walk through,” said Abernathy.

In emergency situations, creating building compartments was also discussed. They could “create a lockdown system that locks each part of the building from another,” said Abernathy.

The expansion plan also addresses providing additional flexible education spaces, expanding STEM and vocational learning areas and addressing the cafeteria and common space. “As education continues to evolve and there’s more hands-on learning and you are doing different activities, you need spaces that are flexible to have different activities,” said Abernathy.

The path forward includes refining the master plan solutions, cost models, deferred maintenance priorities, and completing the traffic and circulation study with the town of Crested Butte. “There is no set timeline for implementation of the master plan. It’s really based on some triggers with school population growth,” said Abernathy.

“Right now, Crested Butte Community School is approximately 50 students away from capacity, and we’re using storage rooms, hallways, and all sorts of spaces in the building for educational opportunities,” said Abernathy. “The first solution of course is to put portable classrooms in. It’s an economical solution and you can deal with the capacity issue for the short-term very quickly, because the process to design an addition and fund it is a two-year process,” said Abernathy.

“The last part of this is that there are really two options for the facilities master plan in Crested Butte. One option is to expand the existing school, which adds about a 150-student capacity and buys us about five years of growth if we don’t see any major changes in growth. I don’t know how the Vail deal will affect growth. It’s hard to say.

“The other option is to construct a separate K through second grade facility in an area like Crested Butte South, and then convert the current school to a third grade through 12 school,” said Abernathy.

According to Stephanie Niemi, the secondary principal of CBCS, “Right now, as of yesterday, we’re up 25 students at the secondary school next year.”

“So it sounds like we might be at capacity this fall,” said Abernathy.

Regardless of school population growth, the question still remains: Expand the current building, or build a new school altogether at a different site?

“If we do expand this facility one more time, then that’s the last time, so then we’re at this point of, why not just build a new facility now?” asked Tredway.

The decision on which expansion plan to go with has not yet been made. In August, RTA Architects will present the master plan to the school board. According to Gunnison Watershed RE1J superintendent Doug Treadway the final design and planning work will be done after enrollment trigger points outlined in the plan are hit.

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