Nearly $30M in projects planned this summer at Basalt public schools | AspenTimes.com

Nearly $30M in projects planned this summer at Basalt public schools

The Roaring Fork School District has a plan to increase pedestrian safety and improve traffic circulaton at the Basalt elementary and middle schools. Relocating the bus barn was a key to the project. Work will progress through the summer.

The Roaring Fork School District will waste no time launching major multi-million dollar projects at all three of Basalt's public schools this summer.

Work on projects ranging from improving pedestrian safety at the elementary school to overhauling the high school cafeteria will begin as soon as classes end June 8. Work already has started on a major refurbishing of the middle school's auditorium.

"The heavier lifting items are going to be starting when classes are out," said Jeff Gatlin, chief operating officer for the district.

The school district estimates spending $29.42 million on projects at the Basalt schools this summer and fall. Other projects are progressing at the public schools in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale.

The improvement projects are part of a $122 million bond issue approved by voters in November 2015. Voters in the sprawling, 5,200-student district approved a property tax to pay off the bonds. Gatlin said the bulk of the work will be completed over the summer before classes resume in September.

Once the bond issue passed, the district put the jobs out to bid. That gave contractors plenty of time to plan out the projects so they can mobilize next month and tackle a lot of work in a short time. The costs from the bids are locked in.

The big endeavor at Basalt Elementary School is a long-awaited solution to pedestrian drop-off, traffic circulation and parking woes. Band-Aids have been attempted over the past two decades to solve conflicts with little effect.

A key to solving the transit issue was relocating the bus barn to a new facility in El Jebel, Gatlin said. That eliminated some of the traffic at the busiest time.

The school district created a committee that included parents, school officials, Basalt police and engineers to help design the reworked area. Buses will drop off students closer to the elementary school, Gatlin said. That will eliminate the need for youngsters to cross lanes of traffic. The bus lane will be restricted, so students walking in from parked vehicles won't face "a sea of cars," he said.

In a presentation to the Basalt Town Council earlier this year, school district officials said the project will add parking and gets vehicles off the street to create a safer situation for pedestrians.

As part of the circulation improvements, the middle school parking lot will have a dedicated entrance and exit. Currently, there is a bottleneck at the shared entry-exit.

A new secure-entry vestibule will be added to the elementary school and the Red Brick Building will be renovated to provide additional capacity for early childhood education and child care, according to the district.

The elementary school also will get extensive upgrades to its mechanical systems, new furniture and new fixtures and exterior lighting. Total spending at the elementary school is estimated at $6.3 million.

The middle school will undergo an estimated $13.6 million in projects. The splashy items include a renovation of the auditorium.

"Basalt High School has no auditorium and the middle school auditorium is in need of a major overhaul — including everything from lighting and sound systems to finishes and new seating," the school district's fact sheet said. A small performance space also will be added to the high school.

The middle school cafeteria will be reworked to improve connectivity to the rest of the school and the library will be transformed into a modern "Learning Commons," according to the district's outline.

Classrooms will be added and existing ones will be renovated to make them more in line with current education approaches.

The main entry and administration areas will be renovated to improve security and visibility.

Extensive upgrades to mechanical systems, lighting and energy efficiency will be undertaken, as well.

Basalt High School is in line for an estimated $9.4 million in projects, the biggest component being the new student commons.

It also will have a new entry and administrative area that will be more secure.

All of the project will be completed by late fall, according to a letter prepared for parents.

The school gyms and athletic fields will be closed to the public this year because of the potential conflicts with construction. Other events in summer programs will be relocated or put on hold.

Gatlin said the investment in LED lights and other energy efficiency steps is worth the expense.

"We do see a great return in a short amount of time," he said.

scondon@aspentimes.com