Candidates speak out on middle school plan
October 17, 2005
Editor’s note: As part of its election coverage, The Aspen Times asked candidates for the three open seats on the Aspen School Board five questions. We will publish one response each day this week.Today’s question: What is your position concerning the prposed Aspen Middle School/Elementary School construction projects?Andrew KoleIf elected, I will work toward completing the construction items in the bond, if it passes. If the bond fails, I will work to pass a bond that carries a consensus and answers the needs of the majority of the community. In my opinion, the current middle school is a cross between a bomb shelter and a dungeon. As a learning environment, it’s embarrassing. It needs to be replaced. The roof on the elementary school also needs to be immediately replaced. Additional classrooms in the elementary school are needed to recover spaces designed for different uses that are currently being used as classrooms. The improvements to the District Theatre are less obvious to me. I would have hoped a joint venture between the school district and Wheeler Fund could have been forged to pay for the theater improvements. I would have preferred the bond address resurfacing the football field, and adding lights and stands.
While I personally am voting for the bond to construct a new middle school, I have spoken to many local residents who have mixed feelings about it. I have had four children attend the existing school (two currently attending) and have seen firsthand the need to replace an ailing structure so that we can have adequate space and a quality facility in which to teach. From a purely financial point of view, bringing the current building up to standard will cost as much as $14 million. For an additional $8.5 million you end up with a much more functional building that is adequate in size and design and will have a life span of 50 years versus an additional 15 years for the existing building upgrade. This, along with a compelling list of reasons, has persuaded me to vote yes.
I am in favor of both of the construction projects. At the elementary school we are primarily recapturing classroom space that has been appropriated for other purposes. The middle school is an inefficient building. It will either require a massive renovation or replacement. I think that replacement is the preferred option.
After asking many, many questions to address my initial reservations, I have decided to support Question 3B, primarily for two pragmatic reasons. First, the 35-year-old middle school will require significant and unavoidable repairs within the next several years, and it simply makes more sense to spend approximately $22 million in hard construction costs on a new middle school that will be functional, meet our current and future needs, and last approximately 50 years, than spend $12 million to $13 million on renovating a poorly designed building that would last only another 15-20 years. Second, interest rates are low but rising, so now is an opportune time to borrow money, as opposed to waiting another one to three years. I am concerned about rising construction costs but am also worried that they will only continue to increase. The elementary school needs to move students out of makeshift spaces and into regular classrooms, and I believe that proper management of the class-size policy will ensure that the additional classrooms are not being built solely for out-of-district students, as some parents fear.
I am in favor of the bond and mill levy and feel now is the time to complete our “campus” with the construction of a new middle school.