School expansion in design phase, construction to begin in spring 2024

Be on the DAG!

By Mark Reaman

While heavy preparation work has been taking place the last several months to get ready for the major school facilities expansions in both Crested Butte and Gunnison, major construction is not expected to begin until the late spring of 2024. And then it will be full on for about two years.

Update meetings on the project were held in both Crested Butte and Gunnison recently with the Crested Butte meeting taking place on Thursday, May 25. Led by district superintendent Leslie Nichols and the team involved with the expansions, the upper valley meeting drew about 10 attendees. 

The $100 million, three-year project will significantly expand the building footprint on the Crested Butte Community School (CBCS) campus and renovate some facilities in Gunnison. Nichols, along with representatives of the owner’s representative company, the Artaic Group and the architectural group TreanorHL explained the direction of the process that is expected to run through the end of 2025. Nichols said the Western Slope construction company FCI has been chosen as the construction manager and general contractor. FCI constructed the new Adaptive Sports Center building and the previous CBCS school expansion.

“We understand the vote to approve the bond that is funding the project was very close,” said Nichols. “We take this responsibility very seriously and are committed to a high-quality project and process and transparency. We are excited to have retained FCI. They have a lot of experience with projects like this and are well connected on the Western Slope.”

Matt Prinster of Artaic said they were gathering the expertise needed to dive deep into the planning and design process. He said the obvious issues to address with the expansions are the overcrowding at CBCS, safety concerns at the various district campuses, how to improve energy efficiency and also how to address long-term maintenance.

Architect Chad Novak of TreanorHL said the company focuses on designing schools. “We thrive on inspiring developments that drive student success. There are going to be hundreds of people helping to design the school expansion,” he said, pointing out there will be representatives from the school administration, staff and student bodies along with parents and general community members. “The community should be involved. This is your school, your community.”

The goal is to gather five so-called Design Advisory Groups (DAGs) that will meet about five times this coming fall. There will be one DAG specifically for the CBCS campus project.

Prinster said that another goal of the project is to involve local professionals and vendors as much as possible with the project. Potential local subcontractors should contact the school if they are interested in working on the project. “We want to use as much local labor as possible,” Prinster said.

Addressing the split within the community over the need for the property tax hike that comes with a close bond issue passage, Nichols said, “We understand the impacts and understand that some people are not excited about this at all. But we hope that when all is said and done, people will see the value to the entire community. This investment will last for generations. Good schools are so important to good communities.”

While the actual schedule is still nebulous, the hope is to delve into design work over the next year and start construction around late May of 2024. 

It was emphasized that much of the loud, gritty work involved in a project of this scope will happen during the summers when students are not at the facilities. Still, there will be work happening year-round and the construction company has promised to coordinate as much as possible with school staff to limit impacts to the students. But they admitted that students will know there is construction happening during the school year.

“There will be lots of communication happening during the school year,” said Nichols. “It is not an easy lift but is achievable. As for summers, the partners we have using the school facilities in the summers will not have access in the summers of 2024 and 2025 but this summer will be normal.”

While CBCS field improvements are not part of this project, improvements to the intersection of Highway 135 and Red Lady Avenue and nearby feeder streets are. The school district has been working with Crested Butte town staff to address the intersection issues that become heavily congested at the start and end of the school day.

“The intersection is an important part of the project and more work with the town has to be done,” said Nichols. “There aren’t specific answers yet on how to make it better, but the work is continuing.”

For those interested in being part of the design process, go to GWSDSchools.com for information on how to apply to be part of the DAG.

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