Crews rush to complete school work |

Crews rush to complete school work

John ColsonAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Aspen’s 2007-08 school year doesn’t officially begin until Aug. 23 for high school students and Aug. 28 for everyone else, but the public campus already is humming with activity.Construction workers continue their hustling pace to finish the new Aspen Middle School on time, and work is finishing up on a new sidewalk leading from Moore Drive into the upper-school parking lot.As for the district’s two parking lots, Superintendent Diana Sirko said this week that new parking rules will be in effect this year.”We’re hoping this week will be the inspection and the approval for occupancy,” Sirko said, giving the tentative day for the final “punch list” inspection as Friday.She said the remainder of the old middle school will stay up until next spring, largely because new federal asbestos abatement guidelines have been enacted to cover vermiculite, a fire retardant that is present in the remaining walls of the school.Plus, she said, there remains a small chance that some part of the new school will not be ready for occupancy by the first day of classes, in which case some of the students might have to spend the first part of the semester in the old school.Although there have been bear sightings at the school, primarily in the old building, Sirko said that once school has begun, the buildings will be closed and locked and there should be no more bear problems.”It’s always been an issue,” she said of occasional bear visits to the campus, particularly in the area of several apple trees that once stood on the middle school campus.Of possibly more importance than bears to returning students and parents, Sirko said, is the fact that new parking rules will be in place this year.Instead of last year’s “seniors only” parking permits for students, this year juniors will be able to “earn the privilege to park” because there will be more spaces available. Thanks to the removal of construction equipment, trailers and fencing, Sirko explained, the district has regained some 40 spaces.But new this year will be an $80 parking-permit fee, which will be used to offset the cost of hiring a parking attendant to enforce the school’s parking regulations.Sirko said parking at the upper lot will be reserved for a certain number of teachers and staff. Students, and those elementary and middle school staff not parking in the upper lot, will be parking in the larger lower lot, she said.Buses arriving in the mornings will drop middle school students off along a new bus lane in front of the new middle school, and high school and elementary school students along the lane that divides their two schools. Afternoon pickup will be the same line-up of buses that has been the case in the past, Sirko said.The parking restrictions and bus service combined, Sirko said, “is really meant to discourage people from driving their children to school and putting them on the bus instead.” She said 90 percent of the district’s students have bus service available to them, and that even downvalley students can catch a bus at the Woody Creek Fire Station rather than ride in to school in a parent’s car.John Colson’s e-mail address is