News Column

Boulder Valley school board hears bond issue recommendations totaling up to $576M

May 21, 2014

By Amy Bounds, Daily Camera, Boulder, Colo.

May 21--The Boulder Valley school board got its first look at a capital needs committee's recommendations Tuesday night, with questions asked about air conditioning, a central kitchen and a new school in Erie.

"We have a big decision ahead of us," said school board President Laurie Albright. "We have a lot of old buildings that need working on."

Three package options were forwarded by the district's Capital Improvement Planning Committee. The total list of capital needs came in at $858 million, with the citizens committee and district staff members whittling it down to the three options.

"The magnitude is so great, it's difficult to fund it all," said Don Orr, the Boulder Valley School District's assistant superintendent of operations. "Culling that down to a package that addresses our most critical needs was a major challenge of (the committee)."

Option one includes what are considered the district's highest priority items, while option two includes almost all the projects supported by the committee. Option three, the most expensive, adds in more needs.

Even the "lean" option is well above the district's last bond issue, which totaled $296.8 million and was approved by voters in 2006 -- though with inflation, district officials noted, that amount now would total around $400 million.

Superintendent Bruce Messinger said he plans to bring a district recommendation to the board next week that includes feedback from community forums and a survey and the results of political polling on how large a dollar amount voters are likely to support. He said he would like to see the school board settle on a dollar amount by the end of June, with ballot language and a school-by-school breakdown of improvements provided to the board in August for a vote.

Board members asked questions about the equity of adding air conditioning to 10 schools as recommended, as well as asking for more information about two expensive items, a $12 million central kitchen and warehouse renovation and a $45 million new K-8 school in Erie.

The priority two package includes $37.7 million for air conditioning at 10 schools, five that proved particularly difficult to cool even with ventilation system improvements, and five used for summer programs. Air conditioning all schools that don't already have it would cost more than $80 million.

A new central kitchen and a new Erie school are both in the priority one package.

District officials said a central kitchen would be more efficient and solve current problems with regional production kitchens. Now, the district uses three regional kitchens "shoehorned" into the existing kitchens at three schools, with a fourth likely to be needed soon. The regional kitchens are disruptive, district officials said, and don't have adequate storage space.

In Erie, Messinger said, the goal is both to retain students who are open enrolling and to anticipate growth in the area.

He said Erie likely will need two elementary schools and one middle school at full buildout in 10 to 15 years. Now, Boulder Valley doesn't have a school in Erie, and district students in Erie are served by Lafayette schools. Lafayette'sAngevine Middle School is at capacity. The schools on the St. Vrain Valley School District side of the town also are full.

School board member Jim Reed said he wants to see enrollment projections, but a K-8 in Erie seems like "a pretty reasonable investment."

Messinger also noted that about half the money in the priority one package would go to repairs and renovations, which the district can't afford to fund through its regular budget because of inadequate overall state funding.

That category includes heating, ventilation and cooling system improvements; restroom renovations; roof repairs and repairs to address code compliance issues. Also on the priority two list are improvements to classrooms to allow for education innovations, with projects determined by individual schools. On the athletics side, middle-level track improvements and renovations to high school stadiums also made the priority two list.

The committee considered the results of an online survey and community forums in making its recommendations.

The online survey, with 427 respondents, found facility repair and maintenance and renovations or additions for programs were strongly supported. Least supported was expanded meeting and training space. Air conditioning, athletic facilities, innovative learning spaces and energy efficiency were well represented in both the most and least important categories.

At seven community forums to get feedback on the categories people felt were most important for inclusion in the next bond issue, attended by 194 people, different communities identified different priorities. But overall, 90 percent listed renovations and additions as very or moderately important, and 78 percent said facility maintenance and repair was very or moderately important.

Opinions were split for districtwide air conditioning, with 57 percent saying important versus 41 percent as not important, and expansion of new facilities for athletics, with 60 percent saying important versus 39 percent saying not important.

The results of political polling are not yet available.

Contact Camera Staff Writer Amy Bounds at 303-473-1341 or


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Source: Daily Camera (Boulder, CO)

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