Guest Column: High school’s facility needs topic of three open houses

By CHRIS SELLE
MSD Superintendent
MEEKER | As mentioned in previous newspaper columns, two separate studies of the immediate and long-term capital improvement needs at each of Meeker School District Re-1’s facilities were completed last year. The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) updated its 2008 facility condition assessment for the District and a comprehensive facilities master plan was also developed by a team of school district representatives, community members, a general contractor, architects and engineers. The two studies concluded that the district’s elementary school and middle school do not require renovation, upgrades or additions at this time. However, this does not hold true for the district’s 63-year-old high school and aging bus garage.
Following are some of Meeker High School’s most pressing facility needs, as identified in the CDE assessment and/or facilities master plan:
– Significant security issues, with 39 exterior doors and the need for a more secure front entrance.
– Poor air quality, the presence of asbestos and other health/life safety concerns.
– Outdated and/or failing HVAC, plumbing, lighting, fire suppression system, flooring and roofing.
– Outdated, poorly configured classrooms and labs.
– ADA accessibility issues and other code violations.
– Numerous areas of inefficiently used space.
As part of the master facilities planning effort, options to remedy the high school’s facility needs were developed. These options ranged from renovating the current facility to building a completely new high school, with other “in-between” option.
Community meetings were conducted to gauge support for the various options. Both the group involved in developing the master facilities plan as well as those participating in the community meetings agreed on the same solution, a plan that calls for the following improvements to the high school:
– A new two-story academic wing located where the south parking lot is currently located.
– A new, appropriately sized gym—in addition to restrooms, locker rooms and wrestling room—built to the north of the current gym where the cafeteria is currently located.
– A new secure main entrance.
– A new area that would provide pre-function space as well as serve as the cafeteria during the school day.
– Renovation of the existing auditorium.
– Renovation of the existing gymnasium (to serve as auxiliary gym).
– Demolition of the outdated auxiliary gym, cafeteria and north classrooms, creating space for parking.
After completing the master facilities plan, the board of education made the decision to apply for a Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant for financial assistance. If awarded, the school district would need to provide matching funds for the grant which would be generated through a bond election.
A 20-member Citizen Task Force of business, civic, education and ag industry leaders was recently convened to share information about this process and recommend future actions. This group agreed that pursuing a BEST grant to help fund renovations to the high school was a fiscally sound approach. This was especially appealing given that the grant would not have to be paid back.
The Citizen Task Force also recommended the district be proactive in gathering community feedback. Therefore, the school district will engage in efforts to inform our local taxpayers about the district’s needs and proposed solutions and to gather community input. We will be making presentations to local organizations, hosting open houses, keeping our website updated, seeking newspaper coverage and conducting a public opinion survey in late May or early June. Your participation is greatly appreciated.
If you would like to discuss the proposal in person or would like me to make a presentation to a local organization to which you belong I would welcome that opportunity. I can be reached at 970-878-9040 or chris.selle@meeker.k12.co.us.
Though these are very challenging conversations, during my time in our community I have learned Meeker deeply loves our schools and students. As such, it is vitally important that our community has accurate information with which to make decisions about our future facility needs.