Summit School District has a laundry list of capital projects, meaning voters will likely face a multimillion-dollar question in 2024
Ahead of any decision to place a financing measure on next year’s ballot, district officials will engage in an outreach campaign to gauge voters’ appetite on various proposals
Summit School District officials are preparing to launch an outreach campaign to gauge residents’ appetite for a number of high-cost projects that could result in a school financing decision for voters in 2024.
During a Nov. 16 board of education meeting, officials brought forward a laundry list of items — mostly capital projects — that could be funded through a multimillion-dollar bond if it were voter-approved.
The last time Summit County residents saw such a question on their ballot was in 2016 when roughly 60% of voters approved a $68.9 million bond earmarked for school building upgrades and replacements. Bonds allow districts to take on new debt that is later paid off using property tax revenue.
According to Facilities Manager Woody Bates, the total cost associated with all the district’s deficiencies is around $75 million, though most of that represents non-critical repairs. While the 2016 bond helped to improve building conditions across the district, particularly at Dillon Valley and Frisco elementary schools, that funding was designed to be spent within three to five years of the bond’s approval.
Colorado schools “are not funded sufficiently to take care of facilities entirely on their own,” Bates said. “So what that means is we end up with deficiency items building on a list over time that we then have to go to the taxpayers to say, “Can you help us out so we can fix this? And that’s where we’re at.”
The current list includes possible updates to Snowy Peaks High School and Breckenridge Elementary School. Both buildings have roofs that officials consider inadequate to continue supporting snow loads.
Bates added that it doesn’t mean the schools are dealing with more issues than others, just that the age of its infrastructure could mean the buildings are at a higher risk.
“Yes, we have a structural issue that we have to pay attention to, but it’s no different than any other school in a big snow year. We’re paying attention to every roof, everywhere,” Bates said.
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The schools are also in need of expanded space. Snow Peaks, for example, has no gym and lacks enough administrative space while Breckenridge Elementary’s gym and cafeteria are a shared space that limits the amount of time students can spend in the gym.
As the district looks at schools’ needs, officials said they must also weigh how cost effective repairs are and if it would be better to replace a facility entirely. Officials said they considered building a new school for Snowy Peaks on a different site or integrating it with Summit High School. They told board members during the Nov. 16 meeting that they were in favor of building a new school on the same site as Summit High and having the two schools share some resources.
“That is the option we will continue to do some planning on. It doesn’t mean that this is necessarily where we’re going to land finally, it means this is the option we should dig into more,” said Chief Financial Officer Kara Drake.
Officials also said they were looking into the possibility of rebuilding Breckenridge Elementary at its existing site after reviewing other options that included shutting down the school and relocating its students to other elementary schools.
Another large-scale capital project could be building a community resource center, which was identified as something of interest in a roughly 500-person community survey the district recently completed. The center could provide access to wifi, computers and printers as well as recreation space and amenities such as a community kitchen, showers and laundry.
Other initiatives not necessarily related to renovations or rebuilds, but still potentially eligible for bond funding, include expansions of career and technical education programs currently offered at Summit High such as welding, engineering and hospitality. Officials said they are considering offering these programs at Snowy Peaks and Summit Middle School while also possibly adding new opportunities such as outdoor education, construction trades and manufacturing in the bike and ski industry.
“One of the equity points is that we feel the Snowy Peaks kids are not really getting what they deserve,” said Superintendent Tony Byrd. “They have an amazing family … we need more opportunities for them to get real skills to get connected with jobs.”
The district is also continuing to seek housing solutions for its staff, something that could also be aided by the passage of a new bond. Officials are partnering with the housing firm Norris Design to complete a housing master plan that could be ready by spring of next year.
The plan would provide analyses of building housing on various district-owned land as well as conceptual designs and community feedback. It would also serve as a framework for how many units the district would need, the price point of those units and how those would be developed.
District leaders said they are also considering more short-term efforts, such as entering into master leases with future workforce housing properties. A master lease would allow the district to own several units in a given development that it could then rent to staff.
Board President Consuelo Redhorse said, “It’s going to take a while to do any building ourselves,” adding that a master lease represented “a good opportunity.”
Board members will ultimately have to vote on sending a bond question to voters with specific language on how that money will be spent. Drake estimated it could take another month to finalize the list of project priorities, some of which may not need bond funding. Any potential bond amount would be decided likely in May after which point the district would begin organizing a campaign to see it passed.
But before any of that happens, Byrd said the district needs to start polling residents on their interest in various projects to see what support does, and doesn’t, exist.
“We want to go out and start getting reactions to these ideas, as a whole package,” Byrd said, “and start testing the waters with the community.”
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