Summit schools eyes roadmap for meeting needs of growing community
As the region’s growth persists to uncharted levels, Summit County’s schools have set sights on preparing for what may be on the horizon with the recent launch of a Master Plan process.
In conjunction with the Summit School District’s new strategic plan, called Vision 2020 — which lays out the course for its mission and goals over the next five years — school leadership sees this exercise as vital to future achievement. Through community-wide collaboration, they envision it will most suitably position the district to ready students for the challenges and demands of the 21st century.
“We’re hoping the research we’re doing now, with help, provides much more of a roadmap moving forward,” Margaret Carlson, school board president, told attendees at a Master Plan meeting last week. “And that it’s going to help us make the best use of our assets of our facilities and really help us just be smart partners with the county. We want to be responsible and be able to serve our students in the way we need to in the future.”
Included in this overall analysis, which the district has hired Wold Architects and Engineers to lead out of its office in Denver, are assessments of each school building’s condition and sustainability, as well as estimations of local housing and population growth. Also factoring in is the school and public’s input, all weigh heavily into development options and final recommendations Wold will present to the school board in the next two months.
by the numbers
In these building evaluations, Wold is appraising the needs of the district’s eight buildings that accommodate nine schools — Snowy Peaks High School is housed in the western portion of Summit Middle School. The agency does so by coming up with each school’s existing facility condition index, or FCI, based on deficiency and replacement costs. The higher the percentage, the higher the need.
Built in 1978 and receiving various renovations in 1985, ’89 and 2001, Dillon Valley Elementary is one of the district’s oldest buildings and has the highest FCI at 62.2 percent. Listed needs include improvements to better maintain consistent temperatures throughout the building, and fixing leaky plumbing fixtures.
On the other end of the spectrum with a FCI of 2.1 percent is Silverthorne Elementary, the district’s newest building, completed in 2004. The structure has its own share of necessary upgrades, also with temperature issues throughout possibly due to missing insulation, leaky skylights and continual sewer smells.
At a little more than the average across the district is the high school, at 23.4 percent. The 85-acre campus was built in 1996 and received a renovation a decade later, but could still benefit from upwards of $4 million in improvements according to the district, including addressing roof leaks and heating, ventilation and cooling enhancements.
Key in determining where money will be directed, however — and the district on its own estimates about $17.5 million in necessities at this point — is what kind of increases in enrollment the area should expect, and how that impacts the uses of existing buildings. The school system of course needs to first look at utilizing current resources to fulfill these needs rather than simply starting from scratch based on the limited availability of funds for public education.
To formulate its best predictions of this imprecise element though, Wold has reached out to the various towns and municipalities to gather information about current and future housing projects and combined that with historical statistics on school growth. That has resulted in a calculation of roughly a 2.5-percent increase annually. Over a span of the next decade, that’s another 1,000 students attending SSD schools.
Where all of these new students and families are going to live in one issue, but so is locating affordable housing for those the district would need to hire to teach these additional pupils.
“We’re very much aware that workforce housing is an issue,” said Carlson. “It’s a problem in our county right now, and everybody’s looking for more. So the idea is, ‘How can the school district partner with the towns and employers to help be part of the workforce housing solution so we’re not just guessing, and we’re not planning in isolation of the rest of the county?’”
count of hands
Separate from simply furnishing enough physical space to meet the expanding student population at school buildings, the district also hopes to decide upon a long-term direction with the Master Plan. It’s why early into the process — the first of it’s kind in approximately two decades — school leadership reached out to both parents and staff to request ideas and contributions that will assist in shaping the ideals that guide modernization and potential refurbishment.
Essentially, this will provide additional voices and perspective in how current buildings may be renovated or new structures constructed, land owned by the district developed, and programming tailored to help students reach their greatest potential. In turn, a survey was sent out requesting participants to identify their top-three subjects of importance through multiple-choice questions related to facility use.
“The idea was to gather input and thoughts around priorities,” said Julie McCluskie, director of communications for the district. “Tell us your issues and challenges, and hopes and dreams, and what you’d love to see. Our mission remains offering a top-notch education, and we want to do it right by knowing exactly what that looks like at each facility, each school, providing 21st-century learning opportunities for our schools.”
For example, one of the questions on the survey asked the highest priorities for future facility use. Maintaining small class sizes was the most common feedback in more than 350 total responses from both parents and teachers.
Another question asked of respondents’ greatest concern about facilities. Safety and security as well as traffic flow were listed high among the stakeholders at each of the eight school buildings, but tops among replies was technology and access to the Internet.
“We’ve done well to help parents understand the value of using technology as part of learning experience,” said McCluskie. “Because of that, parents now understand the need to be able to have state-of-the-art technology so the students can access the information and experiences from around the world to enhance the learning in the classroom.”
This point of emphasis fits well with the recent “One2World” one-to-one, student-to-device ratio initiative that is now being undertaken in the next two years after the school board approved the $1.5 million program in January. Included in that measure is fiber-optic network and power upgrades at schools to reach full capability for students and teachers.
“One2World is going to be successful insomuch as we’re able to lay the structure necessary, including the infrastructure as well as devices in the building, and the connectivity in the building, power stations, et cetera,” said Heidi Pace, superintendent for the district. “Vision 2020 is part of why started to do a Master Plan, because we knew we have to meet the facility’s needs if we’re going to fully implement that plan.”
The rest of February into March will entail continued option development based on cost and timing analyses. From there, additional community and district input will be applied in working toward having a final draft of the Master Plan in front of the school board for consideration and approval by the end of March.
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