RE1J trims cost of school bond issue

Approximately $8 million cut

With different pieces of the bond campaign falling into place, the RE1J school board took action at a special session on Monday, July 28 to sculpt areas of the district’s site to reduce the size of the capital improvements bond going before voters in November.



The school district sponsored phone interview surveys of some county residents last weekend. The results provided the district with a more detailed look at what county residents consider important in the renovation of district schools and what they see as excess.
The results show that of the 305 people who responded, 51 percent are in favor of passing a school bond this November, while 39 percent are against it.
During its July 28 meeting, the board made changes to make the bond even more acceptable. “We were looking at the costs of some of the things we needed to reduce in order to make [the proposed bond] much more palatable for the community and Roy and his team have taken on that vision with each of the sites,” said superintendent Jon Nelson, referring to Roy Blythe, owner of The Blythe Group & Co, which is redesigning each site for the district.
The effort has shaved more than $8 million off the original bond estimate, bringing it to just under $58.3 million. But with more changes being made on the board’s recommendations, that figure is far from final, said Blythe.
To reduce the $22.3 million price tag at the Crested Butte Community School, the board agreed to keep the existing track size instead of enlarging it, and to reduce storage space to make room for more classrooms.
The board also briefly considered leaving part of the second floor as a shell without finished classrooms. But the board decided unanimously to include the second-floor space as four additional classrooms in this round of construction, agreeing that the space needs were immediate. Crested Butte Community School was designed with a 350-student capacity and is expecting around 500 for the upcoming school year.
“We already have 11 classes operating in places that aren’t classrooms,” said school board president MJ Vosburg. “Next year we’ll have a big kindergarten and we only have two more years of small graduating classes, so we’ll need that space the next year.”
The board also looked at two site plans for the Crested Butte Community School, one expansion on town-owned property and a second concept that limits renovations to the district’s land. Both options would cost about the same, said Blythe.
The largest portion of the savings came from reconfiguring some major parts of the renovation plans for the Gunnison High School. Blythe shaved $5.6 million off of the total cost by reconfiguring a large portion of the existing building and eliminating the need for the second floor.
The new design eliminates a large common area in favor of new classrooms and additional space for the auditorium and associated theater rooms. In addition, the new design reduces the size of a planned gym and rearranges the entire physical education and athletic area. Finally, it reshapes the vocational classrooms and shops.
According to Vosburg, one of the reasons for the dramatic redesign of the high school was to eliminate cost through the reuse of existing space, which was something the telephone survey showed to be a priority for the county’s voters.
Because the second floor is eliminated in the new plan, there would be no need for two stairwells and an elevator, saving additional space and cost. The majority of classrooms would also be reduced in size from more than 900 square feet, in the original plan, to between 750 and 800 square feet.
Blythe said, “We went back to some of the programmed square footages and we ended up asking, ‘What can we do to squeeze things?’ By changing the shapes and sizes of the rooms, you can see how much additional area is coming out of this space.”
The Gunnison Valley School, which is getting a new building, saw slight changes and increased costs from the original plan. The valley school is an alternative high school located on the same property as GHS.
“The building we’re looking at is a little over 4,200 square feet, and when we put those numbers in we got $1.85 million. What was said two meetings ago was $1.5 million, and when we added in what we thought the site work would cost, it came out to a little more than that,” said Blythe.
The Gunnison Community School will also get only minor changes from the original renovation concept in the new round of plans. The kitchen area that has been expanded to serve the food preparation needs of the other Gunnison schools. Since kitchens account for some of the greatest costs in school renovations, the expense of renovating that site will increase as a result.
Lake Elementary, which will house the district’s Early Childhood Center for preschool and kindergarten, will expand in size. The board recommended the additional workspace for the school’s teachers and administration.
To make that extra space available as soon as possible, a modular building would be moved to the site from Crested Butte as soon as it is no longer needed. But there were some concerns raised about getting too comfortable in a modular that would take more than $100,000 just to move into place.
“The administrative space is sort of like our formal living room where we take our visitors,” said board member Jim Perkins. “When people come to interview or just look around at our schools, we should come to a place that is presentable. It needs to look good and I don’t think that happens in a modular.”
After hearing the concerns of the board Monday, Blythe will again refigure the cost estimate for each site and return with those figures for the school board’s regular meeting on August 11.
The bond campaign steering committee met on Wednesday, July 30 at Lake Elementary School to discuss ways the bond can be presented to voters, using the latest information from the phone survey.

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