The old school building housing the Bayfield Primary School (BPS) was deemed unsuitable for student occupancy 19 years ago, and classes there were discontinued. But over the past several years, more and more young students have been moved back into the building to ease crowding at Bayfield Elementary School.
That's the thought behind the school district's application for a state BEST grant to help pay for a new school for grades 3-5 and major renovations at BES to accommodate grades K-2 and get all students out of BPS.
The school board gave the final go-ahead Tuesday night to submitting the grant application. It must be received by Colorado Department of Education BEST officials this afternoon.
District owner's rep Marty Zwisler showed the application, which is a stack of paper 2 to 3 inches thick. The goal is to provide irresistible documentation of the district's need to get kindergartners and first graders out of the old building.
The application is for $8.57 million, dialed back from the $11 million the district was eligible to ask for as a way to improve the chances for approval.
Zwisler described the process for evaluating applications using a point system. There could be 50 to 60 competing applications. The ones with the most points get funded until the available money runs out. "My understanding is some applications won't even make the initial cut," Zwisler said.
The number-one priority for evaluating applications is safety hazards, health concerns, and security issues, he said. "We nailed it there. Next is over-crowding, moving from temporary (i.e. modulars) to permanent facilities. We're doing that as well. Third is more technology in the schools. Our focus is on those top priorities."
On the BEST facility index for scoring applications, Zwisler said, "We are off the charts. On due diligence to support the scope of work, I think we have a really strong case." The application shows a compelling and urgent need. "We decommissioned these facilities (BPS) 19 years ago, and now we are moving more and more kids into them," he said.
He continued: "We tried to put together a project that builds what we need in the long run. We feel really good about where we are with this."
The entire project is almost $39 million. If the district gets the BEST grant, the remainder of around $30 million will need voter approval of a bond issue. The district will know about the BEST grant this summer and is considering a bond vote in November.
As for renovating the primary school building to meet current standards and needs, Superintendent Troy Zabel said that would probably cost more than a new building.
A renovation also wouldn't eliminate the street that divides the campus. The BEST evaluators "will review a project and not consider it if it's money being spent where they think it shouldn't be spent," Zabel said. "If we went for that, they would probably kick it out."
One of the renovation priorities at BES is child safety when parents drop off kids before school and pick them up in the afternoon.
"Today I shot around 50 photos as kids came out," Zwisler said. "I almost got hit by a pickup. It's insane there." The pick-up and drop-off area would be moved to the east side of the building. Similar issues at the middle school would be addressed as part of the plan for the new grade 3-5 school across the street.
"We structured our deficiencies and solutions in order of urgency," Zwisler said. "Vehicle safety was number 1... The second priority is security, that people can just walk in." He cited the number of exterior doors at both the elementary and primary schools. "I hope it's recognized by the people that count that we have an issue," he said.
Zabel said on Wednesday that when BES was designed in the mid 1980s, there were three or four sections for each grade, and two for the kindergarten. Now it's up to seven sections in each grade.
"In the early to mid 2000s, we were forced to move our kindergarten and then first grade to a building we had abandoned. ... We put the modulars in (at BPS) in 2005. We don't want to continue putting money into an old facility that doesn't meet our needs."
District enrollment on the official count day for state per pupil funding, on or near Oct. 1, was 1,327, he said. Since then it's grown to 1,402. "We're bulging at the seams in a lot of areas," he said. "Something is bringing folks into the district."
He told the school board that the trick will be holding onto those new students to the next official count day, to get state funding for them.