Keystone Science School expansion planned to meet developing need |

Keystone Science School expansion planned to meet developing need

LORY POUNDERsummit daily newsSummit County, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily/David Gidley

KEYSTONE – A night sky observatory and dining, dorm and staff housing improvements are part of the capacity expansion plan for Keystone Science School, which currently has to turn away some school groups because of the limited facilities.Conversations began more than a year ago with The Snake River Planning Commission about the possibility of the project that required rezoning. Thursday, the commission approved the school’s Planned Unit Development (PUD).”That was a big hurdle for us,” Christine Scanlan, senior vice president and chief operation officer for The Keystone Center and Keystone Science School, said, adding that the project will go before the Board of County Commissioners in June for the final sign-off. “This will allow us to take the next step in what the school can be and what we hope it to be. … We have no intentions of developing the site. What we want is a healthy, vibrant science school that will be here for years to come.”

The 46 local and national members of The Keystone Center Board of Trustees pledged to raise $400,000 themselves for the capital improvements and have already come up with half that amount. The rest of the money for the $1.1 million project will be raised through foundations and donors.Also, the yurt and telescope for the Night Sky Observation facility, have been donated. This facility, which will allow the school to expand its education to more astronomy and energy efficiency, will be powered solely with renewable energy and will provide teaching space adjacent to a dome roofed observatory with a high-powered telescope. It is all part of the project’s first phase that will begin this summer and also includes campus beautification.The next phase would be capacity expansion in the dining hall and dormitories, followed by staff housing renovations and upgrades.The timeline is about two to five years, Scanlan said. After the project is complete, focus will be on a state-of-the-art teaching facility, The Learning Center. Detailed planning for this new building, that is likely five to 10 years out, is in its early stages. The cost is estimated to be $750,000.

In the 13 years Scanlan has been with The Keystone Center and Keystone Science School, there has been talk about this kind of investment. Now, it is close to being a reality.”We wouldn’t be able to do it without all the community support. We really want to thank the community,” she said. “I think it’s an investment in Summit County.”During the 30 years the science school has been around, there have been many changes in public education, Scanlan said. For example class sizes are larger, she continued.As a result, the science school, has had to turn school groups away, more than $100,000 worth of business. Right now the average group size is 45, and with the expansion, the average size will increase by 10.

Also, this capacity increase will allow for the school to break even or better financially for the first time in its history. Currently, The Keystone Center, its parent organization, helps support the school.About 85 percent of the 4,000 students in elementary through high school each year who come to the science school are from throughout Colorado. However, the school’s reputation extends far past the state and brings in students from all over the country.The mission is to inspire respect for science, the environment, self and others using scientific constructs, inquiry and interdisciplinary academic instruction in the natural world. And some of the moments that really stand out are when students from inner city schools in Denver who’ve never been to the mountains get to experience it through scholarships to Keystone Science School or when the school receives letters from former students who chose a path of science because of the experience they had there.

Bob Craig, local who founded The Keystone Center and Keystone Science School, in 1975 and opened the doors a year later, is thrilled to see the school’s new plans.The school will be able to have even more of an impact, he said. “It is a benefit for not just Summit County, but nationally in terms of science education for kids.”Support the school’s future

Anyone interested in making a donation to help with the Keystone Science School capital improvement project should call (970) 513-5800.Lory Pounder can be reached at (970) 668-4628, or at

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