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Durango School District lines up bond projects, big and small

Maintenance, repairs and redesigns are slated to start this summer
Marie Voss-Patterson, principal at Park Elementary School, shows on Friday the crowded cafeteria office, which also serves as the dry storage area. Part of the bond money approved by voters will go toward building a new dry storage in the cafeteria. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Durango School District 9-R has millions of dollars that it needs to spend – or at least commit – by November 2023. The money is tied to the 4A bond initiative that voters overwhelmingly supported in the November 2020 election, and will go toward projects that will improve school buildings across the district.

A total of 17 bond packages are included in the bond project. They include repairs, maintenance and updates to a major rebuild of Miller Middle School.

The Miller rebuild has a budget of $45 million, according to a program summary report.

The middle school, which was constructed in 1961, poses multiple problems.

Classrooms are too small and don’t support student learning, according to a district Long-Term Planning Committee report. They have poor acoustics, and floor plans are generally laid out poorly.

Classrooms, restrooms and locker rooms are outdated, and the facility doesn’t support faculty and student collaboration because of a lack of breakout space for small group learning. Space for special education and social-emotional learning is also inadequate, according to the report.

The 2020 Facilities Master Plan says the ground between the athletic fields and the school is eroding every year.

Emily Meisner, chairwoman of the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, said a third design and advisory meeting has been completed, and the team is moving into schematic design for the middle school. The team is reaching out to asbestos consultants and exploring contract options for asbestos removal.

Devon Merriman, project manager at Jacobs, a civil engineering firm, and school district leadership visited five different schools, including schools in Erie and Littleton, to get ideas about how Miller could be redesigned.

“This was a really fun activity because it’s a real eye-opener of what’s possible in these new, modern, 21st-century schools,” he said.

He said modern school libraries appear to have transformed into media centers and shared spaces. On school tours, the group saw concepts such as learning stairs and the placement of “fun” furniture throughout schools. They also observed how instruction happens in these facilities.

Meisner said 85% of the $114.2 million bond money must be spent or committed to a spending plan by November 2023. So far, about 15% of the money has been committed with 6% spent, leaving 84% remaining.

About $17.5 million has been committed for spending across the school district, including $7.5 million to charter schools.

Paul Maddex, interim spokesman for 9-R, clarified in an email Friday the figures are as of Dec. 31.

Many projects are planned for Park Elementary School thanks to the bond money that voters approved in 2020, including security vestibules, roofing maintenance and kitchen upgrades. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Merriman told the school board that the bond project continues to gain speed early into this year, and Jacobs is keeping that idea front and center with consultants, contractors and designers to stay ahead of the turbulent materials market, which has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some developer contracts have been secured, while others remain in the works or have bids scheduled to be put out. For example, contracts have been made with Nunn Construction and FCI Constructors for upcoming projects slated for this summer, such as additions of secure vestibules at Durango High School and Escalante Middle School, as well as Animas Valley and Needham elementary schools.

Another bond package is all about DHS’s planned Career Innovation Center, which is still in its design phase.

Superintendent Karen Cheser has described the center as a place for students to explore career options through engaging, hands-on work with computers and machines such as 3D printers, laser cutters and engravers, and more. The center is meant to complement the school district’s various efforts at preparing students for careers post-graduation.

Merriman said student involvement was a factor for both the Miller Middle School and Career Innovation Center packages. Sixth graders in teacher Stephanie Mt. Pleasant’s class presented their own designs and design elements that they’d like to see in the middle school.

He also said DHS student Nicholas Huber was “absolutely key in providing great insight, design elements and guiding principles” for the innovation center.

Jacobs civil engineering documents presented to the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee detail when certain projects are scheduled to unfold.

Other projects to be addressed this summer include roofing maintenance and repairs for Park, Fort Lewis Mesa, Sunnyside and Needham elementary schools. More repairs are planned for Florida Mesa and Riverview elementary schools, Escalante Middle School and DHS during summer 2023 or later.

Asphalt and concrete projects are also scheduled for this summer at Sunnyside, Riverview, Animas Valley and Needham elementary schools, and Escalante Middle School.

Marie Voss-Patterson, principal at Park Elementary School, shows where plans call for cutting into a wall and building a serving window from the kitchen to the cafeteria. Right now, all the food has to be placed out in the cafeteria when serving. The cafeteria serves about 500 breakfast and lunch meals each school day. Other plans at the school include new carpet, new boilers, piping and the parking lot that was recently repaved. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

Maddex said in an email that at the current rate of project development, the school district is on track to spend all of its bond money by 2025.

The 2020 Facilities Master Plan that identified projects that were needed or wanted can be downloaded from the school district’s website at https://bit.ly/3smrJyh


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