To Build or Not To Build….

It has been very interesting to watch and learn as folks in our district and community gather information and formulate their opinions. Many have chosen to actively participate in the community events and share their thoughts with the school board and leadership. This is very helpful and certainly appreciated.

This blog is written to specifically address some misconceptions swirling through the hallways of our schools, coffee shop in town, restaurants, and other places we converse. It is also important to note that I am willing to meet with anyone to talk about any concerns they may have. Part of my responsibilities as superintendent is to share any community thoughts brought to me with the school board.

Community Input – 11:6:19

The link above was provided on Monday, November 11, 2019. The link is the collective opinions and thoughts of the over 150 people in attendance at the November 6 Community Conversation. It is very interesting to read the valuable insights of our community. It is also interesting to note that many formed ideas around misunderstandings. I want to address a few of those in the following:

  1. Cost of the projects: The costs presented to the community are preliminary. Much research has been done to reach these amounts; however, the final analysis of cost is done by the architect firm, engineers, and builder once final direction has been cast by the board. There was great concern about the different costs involved in both projects. All of this is valid and will be addressed. We did learn valuable lessons from the last BEST project (elementary addition and Science building) in regard to cost estimates. Those projects were under bid and the construction costs were too low which forced difficult decisions. We already have plans in place to ensure these mistakes would not be repeated.
  2. Tax burden: There was some confusion about the tax burden on the community. Simply stated, whether we stay in the current location or move to a different site, the tax implication for property owners would be the exact same amount. Some would say it is a “no-brainer” to build a brand new Pre-K-12th grade facility if it is the same cost.
  3. Consolidate the high school with Cortez: This may sound viable to some, but this would not be a reality. First of all, the ethics involved in this would be questionable. Dolores School District is by far the largest employer in our district of voters. To move our high schoolers to another location would take away jobs for over 40 individuals. This would impact their lives and families. It would also devastate the district’s ability to adequately support the other schools as those who have to move a high school student may move their others students as well. This idea has been presented at a county level already. The answer was an emphatic “no.” The other entities involved are not interested in offering jobs to our staff and other costs to their already burdened districts.
  4. The third option of doing nothing: The “third option” of not renovating or rebuilding has been discussed at length. This will certainly continue to be a topic of discussion. The argument of some is that we need to solidify our leadership and focus on growing our enrollment. These are very good arguments. The challenge with doing nothing is that the original purpose for our actions is to address the true concerns with our facilities. Our buildings were built in a time (1950’s and 70’s) when school safety was not a rising concern and issue as it is today. The layout and construction of our current buildings is not conducive to safety. Also, safety involves the environment in which our students must learn each day. We have classrooms in our high school and middle school that have standing water in them during certain parts of the year. We also have outdoor corridors that can no longer be used because of fear the roof will collapse. We have over 60 entry points into our campus that we cannot monitor at all times. The list goes on and on… (Refer to the Master Plan on the school website.) If we do not apply for the BEST grant, we still must address the concerns with our building. It is not right, fair, or reasonable to expect our students and staff to continue to work in an unsafe environment. We are working on the issues at hand. Our administrators are working 12-hour days and giving non-stop attention to the needs of our district including but not limited to the enrollment.

Many of the questions and concerns that were raised by the community will be addressed in the next phase of our project. I believe the community will be pleased as we move forward and work hard to keep them informed. The board will be deliberating over the next months and certainly welcomes more input.

The next board meeting is Monday, November 18 at 6:00 p.m. You are welcome to attend.