School board reviews expansion project designs

Now working on cost estimates

By Kendra Walker

During their December 11 meeting, the new Gunnison Watershed School District school board reviewed schematic designs of the district’s facilities improvements project with their owner’s representative Artaic and architectural firm TreanorHL. Gunnison County voters passed the $95 million plan in 2022 to address safety, security, overcrowding, maintenance and vocational programming across all buildings in the district. The community will soon have the opportunity to learn more and view the designs in the new year. 

“We’re really excited to have achieved a pretty big milestone,” said John Usery of Artaic. “TreanorHL was able to compile schematic design documents for all of the school projects at a 30% level of design.” 

Usery explained that the designs were originally planned to be staggered as the team works on obtaining a cost estimate for the designs. “Treanor HL was able to accomplish all of your school buildings in one go, so you could compare costs against each other. It’s a good check to make sure we are able to get in as much scope as possible and determine alternatives if needed. They’ve developed a really impressive vision for what your buildings are going to look like.”

Over the last 10 weeks, the team has conducted 18 Design Advisory Group work sessions made up of school district representatives and community members to help inform the designs. 

“It’s been an absolute pleasure working with you all and your design committees,” said Chad Novak of TreanorHL. “Your Design Advisory Groups were fantastic to work with. The energy they brought, the community and engagement are exactly what we needed to make decisions for you as we moved through the process.”

At the Crested Butte Community School (CBCS), the building design additions include a two-story addition on the elementary side, a two-story addition to the Career and Technical Education (CTE) and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) wing and a one-story addition to the athletics/physical education area. The main entrance will be moved from the center of the building to each end for better safety and security, with elementary and administration at the elementary addition on the north end, and the secondary school entrance and administration on the south end. TreanorHL focused primarily on the elementary addition and the CTE/STEAM wing during the December 11 design walkthrough. 

The CBCS improvements also call for additional classrooms, an expanded cafeteria, new special education space, a science laboratory renovation, HVAC system upgrades and improved traffic flow.   

Novak noted that the schematic designs for all district buildings add more common areas. “There are very few existing areas where students can get out of the classroom and collaborate in a less formal way,” he said. “These types of commons allow that and encourage that kind of collaborative learning to foster those social skills and group projects.”

The designs also work to bring in more natural light inside the buildings. 

“Crested Butte and Gunnison are amazing places to allow Mother Nature to flood inside the buildings. We tried to do that in every space possible, and we think we’ve achieved that,” said Novak. 

“I appreciate all the natural light,” said board member Mandy Roberts. “All the teachers were advocates of that.”

The school board also commended the team for all of their intentional onsite visits to better understand traffic flows, classroom functions, and teacher and student needs. 

“We’re really trying to listen well to your staff and community members about what’s important,” said TreanorHL’s Patrick Johnson.

Board member Mark VanderVeer appreciated the team trying to design within the budget. “Thank you for trying to keep it in framework of what you expect costs to be,” he said. 

“I’ll forewarn us all that we do expect pricing to come in high, because although Treanor is trying to be disciplined to the budget and be disciplined within each design, we’re hoping we’re also capturing all the dreams,” said Chris Guarino of Artaic. “Typically, when we capture all the dreams, there will be pushing of the budget so there will be some scaling back and further discussions. But we’ll make efficient budget decisions now, so we’re not struggling two years from now to make difficult budget decisions then.”

The district will hold two upcoming meetings for the community to view the designs and learn more about the school improvement and expansion projects. The first will take place at Gunnison High School on Wednesday, January 31 from 5:30–7 p.m., and the second at Crested Butte Community School on Thursday, February 1 from 5:30–7 p.m.

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