Meeker school board hears final assessment on high school, bus garage

MEEKER | “You have a building (Meeker High School) that is about 65 years old and has had very little renovation done. The systems are at the end of its life,” said architect Anne Weber from Bennet Wagner Grody Architects, the firm hired by the Meeker School Board to provide an assessment of the district’s facilities, particularly the high school. Weber presented a draft of the final master plan to the board Tuesday, including estimated costs provided by Haselden Construction.
Among some of the deficits listed, the building is not ADA accessible, there are not enough restrooms for the number of students or to support public events, there is no fire suppression system, and no ventilation of fresh air into classrooms.
A primary planning factor in today’s climate is safety and security. Meeker High School currently has 28 separate entrances to the building and an enclosed administration office with high windows.
“Staff can’t see who’s coming in and out,” Weber said.
The layout of the building makes the library and the shop areas difficult to supervise, the retaining wall in the front of the school is dangerous for students and visitors with no guardrail, and the pick-up and drop-off traffic pattern is dangerous.
In addition, the wrestling practice room is too narrow, and the lighting and wiring in the auditorium are inadequate and unsafe. Charred wiring has been found overhead in the auditorium, indicating a fire threat.
Lighting is also inadequate in the classrooms and the science labs are outdated. Inadequate wall and roof insulation increases operational costs for the school, as does under-utilized space. Plumbing and plumbing fixtures are original to the building and beyond their scope of life. New construction is estimated to reduce energy costs by up to 50 percent.
In previous meetings, board members and planning committee members have discussed multiple options for renovating, replacing, or combining both. At a September meeting it was decided that the best option would be to keep the auditorium and gymnasium, and design new classrooms, admin space, community/public space, cafeteria, a new auxiliary gym around the existing auditorium and main gym. The new construction would be done mostly south of the current building, but still on the same property, and would allow construction to take place without disrupting classrooms, with the exception of the shop and the greenhouse, which would need to be relocated for the duration of construction.
The cost estimate for this option is between $30.4 and $35.7 million. It would require 14 months of construction time, and would bring the admin offices to the high school, thus freeing the administration building to be sold or leased.
Additionally, Weber presented an analysis of the conditions at the bus barn.
“If you push too hard it’s (the bus barn) going to fall down,” she quipped.
“We initiated this process (Master Plan) to qualify and quantify the condition of our facilities,” said superintendent Chris Selle. “To be honest, in the beginning I didn’t have the bus garage on my radar, but it’s square in the center now. To have a functioning school district, that’s as much a part of the plan as the high school.”
Creating an addition would be $320,000, but would not address many of the concerns addressed in the assessment. A new bus barn would be $1.25 million, estimated.
The bus barn has no heat, light, capture systems for spills or hazardous run off, no bus washing option, leaking roofs, not enough room to perform maintenance, and all services (plumbing, mechanical, electrical) are beyond scheduled life and need to be replaced. Exposed insulation on the inside of the building is soiled and not fully covering the walls and roof. The tire storage is in code violation.
The board will receive a final Master Plan from the architects, and then determine whether to pursue a BEST grant. The deadline for the next grant cycle is Feb. 3.
The BEST grant, which comes through the state, combines mineral/severance funds, marijuana tax dollars, and school land lease funding.
“It was designed for school districts like yours—not a lot of people in the community, but still a need for schools,” Weber said.
If received, the BEST grant will still likely not cover all the costs for building a new high school and bus barn.
In other news, Tom Allen said the Meeker Education Foundation golf tournament “surpassed” previous years for fundraising, bringing in approximately $8,000.
Board members discussed a proposed policy that would broaden the definitions of acceptable staff conduct with students. Four board members voted against the policy, and two voted aye.
“A policy in a school district like this, where we have professionals who are trained to take care of kids—the primary quality of a good teacher or school employee is that they care for kids—where we have a list of detailed do’s and dont’s, it takes away from their ability to take care of a child who needs help,” said board member and former teacher Bob Dorsett, adding, “Also, we have specific direction from our employee council that this should be rejected.”
Board member Kevin Amack said, “I think this helps our administrators, gives them a few more guidelines. I think it’s really hard to argue with the backside of this policy.”
“There’s good reason for it, but we’ve got good people. Five years from now we might need to revisit it, but for now,” said board member David Smith.
Much of the policy addressed specific behaviors between staff and students, from banning repeating a “romantic rumor,” to a teacher or administrator “making a sexual joke.”
“Every day you turn on the news and some teacher is sexually involved with a student somewhere,” Amack said. “I bet Moffat and Routt counties thought they’d hired good people, too. This is watered down way more than I would like.”
The motion failed 4-2.
The board approved changes in who has the authority to expel a student and repealed a policy that required a redundant form for staff using personal vehicles for school events.
The next MSD work session will be Dec. 5 at 7 p.m at the Admin Building.