Schools get land for new elementary |

Schools get land for new elementary

SILVERTHORNE – After years of effort, the Summit School District Wednesday finally got the land it needs to build a new Silverthorne Elementary School.

The Silverthorne Town Council voted for a land swap with the school district, which gives the district six acres of town-owned land in Cottonwood Park at Highway 9 and Hamilton Creek Road.

District officials plan an April 25 groundbreaking and expect to open the doors to students by fall 2004.

A last-minute hitch surrounding installation of a traffic signal at the site was resolved when the council and school board members agreed to new language in the land transaction.

That change in wording means the land won’t be transferred from the town to the district until the Colorado Department of Transportation gives the nod for a light there.

School board president Bill Pelham said he’s confident that will happen in time for the groundbreaking, and that it won’t affect the construction schedule.

Wednesday night’s vote followed more than two hours of sometimes heated testimony about the Cottonwood Park site at the north end of town, by the intersection of Highway 9 and Hamilton Creek Road.

Neighbors to the site lined up with parents in the hallway just outside the council chambers, waiting to take their turn at the microphone. As they waited, they pored over notes – some neatly typed, some scrawled hastily on the backs of council agendas – and studied maps of the site.

Many people said the Cottonwood Park property, so close to Highway 9, is not safe. But a healthy share of people also spoke in favor of the proposal.

“The children in this town are the future of our community and they need that school,” said Helen Brady. “I’m not so concerned about the safety issues as I am about the educational drawbacks of the existing site.”

Gary Bergman, who lives in the neighborhood adjacent to Cottonwood Park, said he’s seen firsthand the effects of windblown snow on the site. He said he doubts some of the school officials’ statements.

“This is a 50- to 100-year school,” he said, repeating words Schools Superintendent Wes Smith had earlier used to describe the proposed building. “I heard that at Silverthorne (the current school) in the 1970s, and I have enough fingers and toes to know we’re not there yet.”

While many people said they worry safety concerns haven’t been given enough thought, Councilmember Karla Trippe said she found those statements insulting.

“My only daughter will go to this school, and there is no way I will put her in a place that is not safe,” she said.

While the school district has long considered Cottonwood Park as a potential elementary school site, that location was not its first choice. At the top of the list was a parcel intended for development as part of Silver Mountain Village, situated just south of the Willowbrook subdivision. But those hopes died when the Silver Mountain Village project hit a land-use procedural wall in December. The district then shifted its focus to Cottonwood Park, and some local residents say the process to get ground broken on the new site has been too fast.

Smith said the need for a new school is pressing because of poor conditions at the existing building. But, he said, opening it in 2004 is also a political boon for the district because it intends to ask the voters for an extension of a mill levy just two months after the new school opens. Part of the funds approved through the first mill levy in 2001 were earmarked for a new Silverthorne school, and Smith said he wants to show the voters the district can keep its promises.

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