School district begins planning for reworked 2022 ballot issue

Working on scaled back plan and better communication

[ By Kendra Walker ]

With the Gunnison Watershed School District still in need of building improvements, specifically more space for an already bursting-at-the-seams Crested Butte Community School, the school board is starting to make moves to fine-tune a potential bond issue for 2022 that the community can get behind.

After testing the community’s temperature this year on whether or not an $83 million bond issue for a school building improvements plan would pass on the 2021 November ballot, the school board ultimately decided the bond should wait one more year and be scaled back in order to gain more support from Gunnison County voters. They began working on next steps during an October 25 work session, which will include gathering a communications and community leadership group to lead the campaign and determining how to scale back the previous plan.

The school board discussed how folks who participated in the polls this summer might have been opposed to the bond because they didn’t understand the details. The board agreed to use the next couple months to gather a group together that can help the district better communicate the critical improvements needed for the schools.

“One of my takeaways from the last go with the polling is that some people need it really simple, they just want to know the facts,” said superintendent Dr. Leslie Nichols. “But that’s not everyone, because there are people who really want the details and then there’s some people right in the middle. Our communication needs work to meet the various needs depending on what people’s interests are.”

“I don’t feel like we got buy-in from the [task force] group, they were not on board. I think that Zoom worked against us,” said board member Tyler Martineau. “We want those task force members to be saying yes. That involves one on one with those folks and involved in-person meetings. What we need is a nucleus of people who are good speakers, good convincers who are totally committed to the bond issue who will go out and do some of that work. That’s a key piece to gather that group in the next two to three months.”

“There are six people that need to be lobbied and get their input and get them on board. You’ve got the mayor of Gunnison, mayor of Crested Butte, mayor of Mt. Crested Butte and you’ve got the county commissioners,” said board treasurer Dave Taylor. “If those six people are behind the school expansion, the table’s set. Their opinion will hold a lot of influence on the community.”

He later stated, “To me it’s very simple. The [community] told us it was too expensive. We’ve got to cut the expense, we’ve got to tell them where and how we’re going to use it. That’s where we as a school board and an administration have to gain the trust of the community to convince them we’re going to do it right. And part of that is cutting the price tag and telling them where the money’s going to go.”

“We have to figure that out before we can go further. That has to be priority,” said board president Courtney Fullmer. “I think that’s key to the next steps.”

The school board plans to discuss the bond issue during their December meeting, and by then have a good idea of a communications group/bond committee. The school board will then plan to look at where to make cuts to the plan’s scope in their January school board meeting.

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