The school district’s Long Range Facility Planning Committee advised the Windsor-Severance Re-4 board of education that a newly built high school by 2019 should be a top priority.
The committee — made up of 15 people including community representatives, teachers, administrators, town planning representatives, assistant superintendent of business services Stephanie Watson as the district liaison and planning consultant Denny Hill of Strategic Resources West from Castle Rock — met with the school board in a work session last Monday and said that enrollment projections estimate that the district will be more than 20 percent over capacity at the high school and that additional capacity will be needed by 2019.
As of Feb. 3, there were 1,212 students at the high school. The committee said that for capacity to be available in 2019, it would mean a bond election in 2016.
Watson said the district’s last bond election was in 2007 for an addition to Grandview Elementary School, the building of Range View Elementary School in Severance and the building of Severance Middle School. The amount was for $41.5 million, and it was the largest bond issue to date.
The district has 236 acres of land in Severance, located northeast of Severance Middle School, that is reserved for the new high school. The estimated cost to build a new 160,000 square-foot high school (800-900 students for phase 1 with a capacity of 1,250 students) is $36 million, plus another $2 million for infrastructure such as utilities and streets.
The committee recommended to the board that it start the next steps in the planning process to look at capacity options as well as educational programming and specifications, and to put a time line together from now until November 2016, when the bond election would be held.
“The current recommendation is to have a bond election in 2016 for additional high school capacity and to closely monitor middle school and elementary enrollment numbers leading up to the bond proposal for possible inclusion,” said committee chairwoman Cindy Scheuerman. “Based off current projections, the middle and elementary levels are borderline for needing additional space before 2020 — so it will come down to timing. We, of course, don’t want to be adding space before it’s truly needed, but we also want to plan well for the future so that multiple bond elections in a short time frame don’t become necessary.”
Re-4 Superintendent Karen Trusler said that as Windsor High School gets larger but the district isn’t ready to build a new school: “We need to look at how we deal with the growing population there. It could be staggered lunches. There are empty classrooms during planning periods, so it’s looking at how to maybe have teachers use a classroom for teachers’ offices and then teachers go to different classrooms to teach. We might take one classroom offline, but that opens up five other classrooms.”
Trusler said the middle and elementary schools can’t be ignored either.
“We need to watch carefully the numbers at the elementary level and middle schools,” Trusler said. “As we grow, we need to think about not only the next five years but the next 50 years and look at our projections and what this community might look like.”
The committee also reported that enrollment projections estimate that Range View will be over capacity in 2019, but modular space will be available.
“This year’s recommendations were the culmination of several years work, but for the current school year, we had three meetings prior to presenting our recommendations to the board,” Scheuerman said. “The committee sifts through a lot of data as part of our work, which can be challenging at times, but I think the biggest obstacle we face is balancing what is best for students against fiscal realities. I think this obstacle is ever present in education and not anything unique to our committee, though.”
Scheuerman emphasized the importance of addressing the district’s needs at the high school level.
“The coming need for additional high school capacity is definitely of the utmost importance,” she said. “Permanent classroom capacity at Windsor High School is around 1,290 and we are already very near that. Capacity can be stretched through scheduling changes, use of modular buildings and other temporary changes, but once it reaches about 120 percent of permanent capacity, we really need to have additional facility space available and it looks like that 120 percent will likely be reached in fall of 2019.”
Scheuerman said that Windsor High School is unique because it has been added on to over the years.
“While classroom capacity is 1,290, a lot of the core facilities such as gyms, hallways and the cafeteria were sized based off a much smaller capacity, about 900-1,000, and so these facilities are already feeling the stress of being well over capacity,” Scheuerman said. “It is definitely going to take some creative problem solving at the high school in order to get through to the time when new facility space is ready to open. Now it’s up to the district to work with the community to see what that additional high school capacity should look like.”
Trusler said community input will be a key to the success in building a new high school.
“I will be bringing and gathering feedback for the board to consider from our community as to what the new high school will look like, what will the new programming be, what will be the focus, will it be a traditional footprint high school or will it be a different type of high school?” Trusler said. “The high school we have to plan ahead because of the land, the infrastructure with roads and water lines and sewer. It is critical to first listen to our community and find out what they value and see as importance for our high school students, and it’s also extremely important for our community to understand the growing population at Windsor High School and the implications for student learning with crowded conditions and the need for more space.”
Trusler praised the work of the committee.
“This group of volunteers has spent considerable time researching and reviewing many aspects to be considered when it comes to our facilities and future needs,” Trusler said. “These citizens have dedicated time and efforts to help our community understand conditions and needs for our students and our future. I am appreciative of their time, expertise, dedication to education and our students.”