Design error costs school classrooms |

Design error costs school classrooms

John Colson

Aspen Middle School will lose several classrooms and parts of others earlier than expected when work starts on a new middle school building this summer.The new school will go up around the existing school so students don’t have to spend a school year in modular classrooms. But a mistake in the plans means the new building overlaps the old by 15 or 20 feet, and district officials decided to go ahead and demolish the old rooms rather than redraw the plans.Architect Kevin Heath of Studio B Architects, which is working on the school construction project, confirmed this week that the preliminary design work for the new, L-shaped middle school was based on an inaccurate land survey left over from the high school construction project in 2001.The classrooms due for demolition are on the side of the building next to the football field.The mistake came to light early this year after a new survey of the campus in preparation for the construction this year and next. The new survey revealed that the middle school was 15 feet or so closer to the football field than the old survey indicated, meaning that several classrooms would have to go.The demolition is part of the reason district officials decided to close the middle school early, although they said they probably would have closed it and the elementary school early anyway to accommodate the construction schedule. The teachers who had classes in those rooms must move out all of their materials and equipment before demolition begins, and a new wall will separate the old school from the construction work.Construction on the new middle school building’s foundation is set to begin June 5. About the same time, crews will begin building five new classrooms on top of an existing one-story wing of the 15-year-old Aspen Elementary School building, and start making repairs to that school’s roof. The district is paying for the construction projects with $33 million in bonds that voters approved last year.Two of the classrooms the middle school will lose house an English Language Learners class and a foreign language class, Heath said. The school will also lose part of the wood shop, essentially the entire music classroom and part of the boys and girls locker rooms.Superintendent Diana Sirko said the mistake may add a little to the project budget, but she emphasized that the entire old building is due for demolition anyway once the new building is finished.”It’s not been presented to me that it’s a large additional cost,” she said. At least one classroom will still be useable, as will the locker rooms.Aspen Middle School Principal Paula Canning said the early closure will give teachers in both schools time to move out of classrooms affected by the construction plans.Canning said the outdoor modular classroom that has housed the art and foreign language classes also will be gone at the end of the school year.While she has found new places for most of the classes and teachers, she said, two will become “roving teachers” next year, meeting with their students in rooms that are otherwise unoccupied because of teacher planning sessions or other reasons.”It has minimal impact on the students,” she maintained.She said the school will have one teacher fewer next year, which should help alleviate the space crunch.Sirko said the middle school will also have fewer students for the coming year, which should help alleviate overcrowding.Even with the smaller student body, Sirko conceded, “They’ll be a little snug, that’s for sure.”John Colson’s e-mail address is