Animas High School has moved a step closer to building a new school on the campus of Fort Lewis College – agreeing to a ground lease for 3.2 acres of land just south of the Bader-Snyder resident halls.
Animas High School will pay $1 annually for the 50-year lease with the ability for two options to renew the lease for 20 years, essentially a 90-year lease for the land for $1 per year.
FLC’s Board of Trustees unanimously approved the lease Monday morning in a special session held on Zoom.
The lease allows for AHS to build up to two buildings totaling 50,000 square feet. The buildings must be used for a public high school or for buildings that enhance the mission of a public high school.
“This has been a long time coming,” FLC Vice President of Finance and Administration Steve Schwartz told trustees. “I want to thank the board for really wrapping its head around what this could be. I think I had my first conversation about this in 2009.”
Construction is expected to start in August with completion of the building set for no later than August 2023. Ideally, AHS Head of School Sean Woytek said he would like to move into a new building sooner, for the fall semester of 2022.
Durango School District 9-R is also exploring the possibility of relocating Big Picture High School to the same campus in an adjoining or nearby building.
AHS has selected Anderson Mason Dale Architects of Denver to design the new school building.
The master planning process for the new building began two years ago.
Woytek said AHS is getting final input from teachers, staff members, students and parents for the new building, and next month the school plans to have a broad outline of what the structure will look like.
FLC has two members on the AHS Design Advisory Committee, and the building will be required to fit in with the college’s architectural aesthetics.
Woytek said AHS is pursuing options to complete its local match of $4.4 million to receive a $13.7 million state BEST grant to build the new school.
AHS has $2.5 million for the local match, which it will get as part of a bond issuance by Durango School District 9-R. AHS is looking to raise an additional $1.9 million needed for the local match. It is exploring a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, funding from nonprofit educational foundations as well as private financing.