A key part of the $1.3 billion that Jeffco Public Schools says it needs to bring outdated district buildings up to structural and educational standards and to address continuing population growth …
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A key part of the $1.3 billion that Jeffco Public Schools says it needs to bring outdated district buildings up to structural and educational standards and to address continuing population growth focuses on keeping students safe.
For district officials, that’s one reason passing the proposed $567 million bond in November is vitally important.
“I believe we’re at a critical juncture and 21st century learners need 21st century school safety,” said John McDonald, executive director of the district’s security and emergency management. “To accomplish that we need to update buildings and bring them online with today’s world ... And at least for me, it’s the most important thing we can do. Every child in our school is our responsibility.”
The bond — a financial mechanism to pay for building construction, renovations and capital improvements — is the fifth proposed for Jeffco schools since 2004, when the last major bond for facility improvements ($323.8 million) was passed. Voters approved a $99 million bond for repairs related to keeping schools warm, safe and dry in 2012. But they rejected a $535 million bond in 2016 and a similar ask in 2008.
Since 2016, “our needs have not receded ... and construction costs have come up,” Superintendent Jason Glass said. “That’s why this ask is slightly larger than the last.”
All schools in the district, with the exception of Sierra Elementary in Arvada, which just completed a two-phase $16.5 million upgrade, will benefit from the proposed bond package, district officials say.
A common thread among the majority of schools is updating security cameras and locks as well as creating secure entries and office locations.
“The average school in our district was built 50 years ago, so the threat of our time then was way different from what we face today,” McDonald said. “One of the things that we know from not only Columbine, but so many tragedies since, is the need to secure doors as quick as possible.”
The updated cameras are not only about serving staff and students, McDonald said, they also can be used as an investigative tool in the moment. The Jeffco Schools dispatch center, for instance, can pull video, capture an image and send it to responders.
“If we’re looking for a missing child or a suspicious person, we can have an idea of what we’re looking for before we even get there,” McDonald explained. “The opportunity for video in all of our schools is best practice we’ve seen nationally.”
Like many of the schools built in the 1960s, main offices of several schools are in the center of buildings. But that design, McDonald said, makes it difficult to track and manage who is entering the school. The goal is have school visitors buzz to get in and then be funneled into an office environment without the ability to walk around the school before being vetted.
The bond is also a way to address inequities in buildings within the district.
“Older established parts of the community need reinvestments to help keep Jeffco a place to raise kids,” Glass said. “In our pre-1980s high schools, we especially have some needs that need desperate attention.”
Green Mountain High in Lakewood is one of those schools.
In August, water leaked through the roof into the library, classrooms and walls creating major problems as the school prepared to begin the new year.
Now, there is water saturation under the gym floor, which forced the school to cancel gymnastics and volleyball events.
Built in 1972, Green Mountain High is slated to receive $13.6 million in improvements if voters pass the bond. They include replacement of old furniture, sinks, interior lighting, old carpet, floor tiles and ceilings. The school also needs updates and improvements to the HVAC and plumbing, electrical wiring, caulking, trim and window sills, commercial kitchen, parking lot and sidewalks.
It also is scheduled for a technology update.
“Parity amongst the high schools is important,” said Tim Reed, executive director of facilities and construction for Jeffco schools. “We have several built before 1980 and they are never going to look like the new rebuilds, but that’s still not — in our mind — a good reason not to have them on the same academic level. This would raise those pre-1980 schools, so they meet the education specifications and they are consistent with what we have in our newer buildings in terms of tech, finishes, types of spaces … a general uplifting.”
The bond package also includes school additions for programmatic needs and to address growth. Even the district’s newest school, Three Creeks K-8 built in 2017, is slated for an addition to accommodate the growing population in northwest Arvada.
Three schools would be completely replaced with new buildings — Prospect Valley Elementary in Wheat Ridge, Kendrick Lakes Elementary in Lakewood and Marshdale Elementary in Conifer.
“We believe these buildings have exceeded their service life and need to be replaced,” Reed said. “We looked at the quality of the site to see if it would support building a new school while keeping the other still operational.”
All three of these sites fit those guidelines.
Finally, the bond package also sets aside money for future growth, Reed said.
“We know that they are still building houses in the northwest area of Arvada and Rooney Valley,” he said. “We see a future need there and we are setting aside money to do that.”
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