Aspen Community School moves ahead with development plans
Special to The Aspen Times
With a $4.2 million state grant secured, the Aspen Community School is moving ahead with plans to expand and upgrade its campus near Woody Creek.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Pitkin County commissioners heard a report from Skye Skinner, executive director of Compass, the nonprofit that runs the public charter school. Public schools are essentially exempt from local land-use regulation, but the school continues to operate under a master plan approved by the county in 1995, and Skinner said she wanted to keep county officials apprised of the school’s plans. She also stated school officials’ intent to be good neighbors and respect the surroundings.
“We love our sense of place,” Skinner said. “It’s always been an important part of our school to be up on that exceptional mesa.”
At this stage, Skinner said, the school’s driveway has been upgraded and that work is ongoing on the septic system, which should be finished in the fall. The school also has hired an owner’s representative, Consilium Partners of Denver, to manage the $11.6 million project.
When all is said and done, the school will add only about 5,000 square feet of learning space and does not plan to expand the 127-student population, but the shape and feel of the campus will change greatly. A new main classroom building will be built, and the current, 40-year-old main building will be remodeled and repurposed as a performing-arts center. The existing gymnasium also will be moved and repurposed as a theater, gym and community meeting room.
The plans, Skinner said, are “actually much more modest” than the square footage contemplated for the campus in the past.
County commissioners were uniformly positive about the plans for the new campus, but they did have questions about the school’s impacts on the neighborhood. Commissioner Michael Owsley, in particular, said the school must reduce the number of parents who drive their kids to school. Commissioner Rachel Richards agreed, suggesting some sort of driving disincentive, such as a fee.
“There’s a lot of traffic there,” Owsley said. “I really think you need to make a school goal of having a mass-transit system to get kids to school.”
Skinner said she would deliver Owsley’s point to the Compass board. The school currently has two buses that carry students to the school, one that serves Aspen-area students and is run by the Aspen School District and another that serves downvalley children and is run by a nonprofit parent organization. There is no obligation for parents to choose the bus, however, and many drive their children to school.
“If you don’t address this, I’ll be really disappointed,” Owsley said. “Because it’s a deficiency.”
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