Meeker board considers construction manager for new elementary school

MEEKER — As if planning a new elementary school, getting a $24 million bond issue passed, and taking care of regular business wasn’t enough, the Meeker Re-1 School Board may be about to hire a construction manager.
Paul Barry of Steamboat Springs told board members Tuesday that a construction manager would represent the “owners‚ the district and taxpayers” as the new elementary school and related projects move forward.
“It’s all about time and money,” Barry told board members.
Barry has his own construction management firm that helped manage several large Steamboat projects, including the Routt County Justice center, the library, the hospital expansion and other projects.
A construction manager helps the project owner make sure contractors follow design plans, control costs and keep to schedules. The new school’s probable designer-contractor, Neenan Archistructure, suggested that the district have a construction manager to represent the board’s interest during construction of the new elementary school and projects at the middle and high schools.
Barry charges $137 an hour for his services on an open-ended contract. That means the business relationship can be ended or extended at any time.
The ballot measures will be decided by voters Nov. 4. If approved, the district hopes to have the new elementary school open for classes in August 2010.
Barry was asked to introduce himself to the board by member Kai Turner, who has known Barry for a number of years. Others will be invited to speak to the board as well.
In other business, Superintendent Dan Evig told the board members that overall student enrollment at all three Meeker schools is higher this year than it was last year. Total school enrollment as of Tuesday was 744 compared to 699 at the end of the last school year. Among the highest growth grades are fourth, fifth and 12th grades.
The highest student count in Meeker schools was around 900 some years ago, but neighboring districts have seen substantial increases, Evig said. For example, Rifle schools now have about 4,000 students and the Glenwood/Roaring Fork schools have enrolled about 5,500 students.
Evig also reminded the board they will need to approve the district’s budget at the next board meeting in two weeks.
Some good news about the budget included a refund from the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, better known as BOCES, for about $274,000.
“Budget-wise, I’m breathing a little easier,” Evig said.
That refund will help offset some additional expenses in areas such as transportation. Rising fuel prices have affected schools as well as all other transportation.
About 80-plus percent of the school’s property tax funding comes from energy sources. In Garfield County, it’s substantially above 90 percent, Evig explained.
Board members approved a request by elementary school principal Jason Hightower to include tobacco grant-funded health curriculum in the grades three and above. The material is supplemental to the regular health curriculum. It is designed to help students develop better self-esteem and make correct choices when faced with using alcohol, drugs and tobacco, Hightower said.
Area districts have had trouble retaining new hires because of the high cost of living, particularly housing, Evig told the board. The districts will hold a recruitment fair, probably in February, he said.
Some 22 new employees walked away from contracts in just a few of the districts, including Meeker, Rangely, Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Rifle and Parachute.
Evig also showed board members the new design for the Colorado Department of Education’s (CDE) Colorado Growth Model. This growth model is designed to better explain where districts, schools and individual students fit in statewide in their state proficiency tests.
CDE hopes that parents, educators and citizens will be able to better understand test scores and student proficiency should help the state meet its mission that “all children in Colorado will become educated and productive citizens.”
Generally speaking, Meeker students score favorably compared to statewide averages, though there are some trouble spots and some scores have been declining.
Board members also approved several contracts and the payment of $12,500 to Joyce Surveying for a survey of district property, including the current middle and high schools, the bus barn and other property.