{Guest Column} Meeker School District: Facilities were worse than expected

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By Chris Selle
Special to the Herald Times
RBC | “We know problems are present… we just don’t know how bad they are.” This was the prevailing thought when the Meeker School District engaged in a facilities master plan process in order to quantify the need for our facilities. Following a series of analysis and public meetings over the spring and summer, the master plan has been finalized. The final copy of this plan can be found on the district’s website at www.meeker.k12.co.us.
While all the district’s facilities were included in the plan, the high school and the bus garage quickly rose to the top as the two facilities with the greatest deficiencies. Simultaneously, the Colorado Department of Education’s (CDE) renewed facility condition assessments originally completed in 2008.The 2017 version of CDE’s facilities assessment and the facilities master plan fundamentally differ in their approach to quantifying the condition of our facilities. Nevertheless, both of these documents indicate Meeker High School needs upgrades totaling millions of dollars. The facilities master plan quantified $22 to $29 million to simply fix some of the current deficiencies in the high school. Furthermore, there are problems with the Meeker High School that cannot be remedied through upgrades to the current facility. Another approximately $1 to $1.5 million was identified in the master plan to address the needs with the bus garage.
The purpose of the master plan is also to define options to remedy the identified deficiencies.A variety of options were discussed during community meetings. These options ranged from renovation of the current facility to building a completely new facility, with other “in-between” options discussed. The estimated costs for an all new facility range from $31 to $32.5 million. Given that the renovation costs are near the same as the new construction costs, and that the renovation costs do not address all the problems, the attendees at the master plan meetings quickly concluded that the renovation option did not make economic sense.
The final “solution” agreed upon by those who attended the master plan meetings would keep the current auditorium and current gymnasium. A new, two story academic wing would be built in the south parking lot and a new, and more appropriately sized, gym would be built north of the current gym. The current gym could then be used as the auxiliary gym. A shared “pre-function” space for community events would be located at the main entrance that would also double as the high school cafeteria during the school day. The current auxiliary gym, cafeteria, and classrooms to the north would be removed, opening up additional space for parking. The costs associated with this option are similar to the cost of a new facility.
It is important to keep in mind that this is simply a conceptual idea at this time. If the district is able to move forward with a construction project, we will engage in a separate process to plan the actual building. The only decision the district has made at this time is to apply for a BEST grant, which will be the subject of my January newspaper article.
In the meantime, I encourage all community members to visit the district’s website and review the facilities master plan. Names of individuals who helped in this process are listed in the master plan. Many community members gave of their time to engage in this important conversation. The school district is grateful for their volunteerism, and their commitment to our schools gives me another reason state that I am proud to be a Meeker Cowboy!

Chris Selle

Chris Selle is the superintendent for the Meeker School District.