Country Day School at the Aspen Meadows?
December 7, 2011
ASPEN – Aspen Country Day School is hoping to relocate to the Aspen Meadows campus for the upcoming school year. The move is necessary as construction at its current location – on the Aspen Music Festival & School’s Castle Creek campus – begins in earnest in September.”As anyone who has done a remodeling project knows, it makes a lot of sense to move out so renovations can happen smoothly,” stated a letter sent to Country Day families and friends. “Both schools agree that it would be safer and more efficient for the campus to be vacant during construction. The goal is to create the best learning environment for the coming year – and beyond.”ACDS has leased space from the music festival, which owns the property and buildings, since 1969. Music students use the facilities in the summer, and Country Day moves in for the school year. The two entities jointly sought master-plan approval to redevelop the campus; county commissioners approved the plan in 2008, and infrastructure work begins this winter. According to a temporary use permit application submitted to the city of Aspen on Monday, the private day school – which has 207 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade enrolled at present – would use all or portions of the Boettcher Building, Harris Hall and the Benedict Music Tent and wouldset up modular classrooms in the Paepcke Auditorium parking lot and Gillespie Street lot. The permit request is for September 2012 to May 2013; setup for the school would take place in August 2012, and tear-down would be scheduled for June 2013.There is no chance the school would need to be relocated beyond next school year, according to the letter to parents: “All the infrastructure related to the school will be removed before the 2012 AMFS summer season. It would be prohibitively expensive and labor-intensive to restore the temporary campus after it has been removed.”The decision to relocate the school temporarily came after much debate and consideration, including talk of permanently moving the school. Laura Smith, spokeswoman for the Aspen Music Festival & School, said the decision to allow ACDS to set up shop at the organization’s Aspen Meadows facilities had nothing to do with courting a long-term commitment from Country Day.”It’s simply an intelligent way to move forward with the greatest degrees of safety and efficiency,” she said.ACDS spokeswoman Carolyn Hines agreed.”We came to this decision from a practical standpoint – it will be a much better learning environment to be somewhere else during construction. And we will return to an amazing school environment when construction is completed,” she said, noting that in addition to seeking city approval for relocation, a formal agreement between ACDS and AMFS to proceed as partners in the redevelopment is scheduled for review by the ACDS board in mid-December.While Hines acknowledged that setting up a new school is a huge undertaking, she said parents, students, staff and alumni are enthusiastic; neighbors in the West End have also been receptive to the idea.”We can’t speak for everyone, but we have received gratifying responses from those we have talked to. We want to be a good neighbor, so we are listening to what is being said and trying to be proactive,” said Hines, noting that the school held two “open conversations” with neighbors, as well as several one-on-one meetings, to address their concerns. Chief among them were the traffic implications. As a result, the temporary use application includes a Traffic, Parking, Circulation & Buses Mitigation Plan covering everything from bus service (ACDS will underwrite the $150-per-student/per-month fee for the year to encourage students to ride the bus) to designated pickup and drop-off locations to the creation of a “school zone” with additional stop signs in the area.The permit application now will go through the city approval process. If it is not approved, Hines said, ACDS and the music festival will work together on a plan for construction while school is in session. “It is not ideal, but we do have a backup plan,” she said. “But we are willing to make a promise that we will move out at the end of the school year because our contractors have been willing to make that promise to us.”If the temporary special-use permit is approved, events such as Aspen Film’s Academy Screenings and the music festival’s Winter Music series might have to relocate.”That’s manageable,” Smith said of the music festival’s winter programs. “And we have no particular concerns about Country Day’s impact at the Meadows. It’s a huge undertaking, but so is the entire redevelopment of the campus.”The move actually makes the redevelopment work easier, so there are trade-offs.”firstname.lastname@example.org