EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first of a two-part series on the possibility of building a second high school in the Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District. Next week will focus on reaction from parents and community members.
In what could be one of the most important decisions in the history of the Windsor-Severance Re-4 School District, the issue of whether to build a new high school in Severance, build a second campus and still have one school or add to the current high school in Windsor is staring the board of education in the face.
Re-4 board of education president Sean Ash said every option will be looked at by the board.
“It is one of the biggest issues for this community to make, and I emphasize that the community needs to make this,” Ash said. “We’re all ears, and hopefully we’ll get some good direction from people. We do have a lot of work to do, and most of that is getting as much input from the community as we can.”
Ash said everything’s on the table.
“We’re looking at everything from a different type of curriculum to footprints and location. Nothing is off the table,” Ash said. “What I’d really like to make sure everybody knows is we’re not just going to think that a regular foot-printed high school over at Severance is the way to go. We have to be really careful and think outside the box with getting these kids ready for different 21st century skills and that could be pathways to college, it could be pathways to a vocational skill. I get the impression when I talk to people that we’ve already made our decision, and that is so far from the truth. Whatever decision we make, and if it doesn’t get voted in, at the end of the day then it’s all for naught. We have to make sure everybody understands exactly the direction that we’re moving and why we came up with that direction. What that is, I have no idea. We’ve heard so many different scenarios.”
Re-4 Superintendent Karen Trusler and the school board met with 78 people Monday night to discuss the issue. Trusler said three groups will focus on programming, facility options of what a new high school would look like and finally the pros and cons of one large high school compared to two smaller high schools, and take that research and information back to the school board in December.
“We need to look at the community concerns of what will it look like if we go to two, or why can’t we just expand Windsor High School or have a second campus,” Trusler said.
Range View Elementary School Principal Dan Seegmiller will head up the programming group, while Trusler will be in charge of the facility options and the pros and cons groups.
“We emphasize that this is not a group that will be making decisions on the school name or the mascot or a design, but what we will be doing is learning about the various options and bringing that to the board meeting in December,” Trusler said.
In the PowerPoint slide presentation at the meeting, the enrollment numbers at the high school have increased in 20 years from 91 graduates in the class of 1993 to 250 graduates in 2013.
The school district’s Long Range Facility Planning Committee advised the school board in February 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 — 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, which could mean a bond election in 2016 if not sooner.
As of Feb. 3, there were 1,212 students at the high school. The high school currently has 123 out-of-district students at the high school.
One question from a parent was if the district closed off enrollment at the high school to the out-of-district students, would that free up space at the high school? Not really.
“What we lose from Windsor High School and what we bring in is almost a wash,” Ash said. “We’ve tracked that, and it’s almost even.”
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 a possible 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 could be held. The committee came up with estimated costs of $80 million, which would include the high school, a new elementary school, classroom expansion at Severance Middle School, some soft costs and other district improvements. Ash said when it’s time to go to the voters for a bond election, the district will only do it one time, and not split up the building improvements over several bonds.
Ash doesn’t see the amount of the bond in 2015 or 2016 totaling the entire $80 million.
“Whatever bond we go for depending on if it’s a new high school with a traditional footprint or something other than that which might be to make the existing high school a little larger capacity with some different options, we would all put that in one bond,” Ash said. “We might have to go to a bond in 2015 depending on numbers and what path we take. The earliest would be a bond in 2015, and the latest would be a bond in 2016.”