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High school to get face lift

Tim Mutrie

Aspen School District officials have formally announced they intend to renovate and expand the high school, according to superintendent Tom Farrell.

The announcement comes after several years of discussions about what to do with the cramped and outdated school.

“Last week [the asset committee] decided that we do need to do a bond election next November to fund an addition and renovation to the high school, and a new bus barn,” said Farrell.

If the question gets a thumbs up from voters, the bond will also fund renovations to the Colorado Mountain College building, located on the school district campus. That building is scheduled to become school district property in a year-and-a-half, Farrell said.

AHS principal Kendall Evans and eight members of the asset committee (a 12-person board that advises the school district on long-term facility management issues) traveled to Steamboat Springs yesterday to meet with school officials there, who recently completed a $20 million high school renovation.

“Steamboat had a big bond election that was passed a couple of years ago, and they’ve just completed the addition and renovations to the high school,” Farrell said. “We’re hoping our people will come back with a better idea of the cost and logistics of doing the same thing here.”

Farrell said school officials are expecting the high school overhaul to cost approximately $20 million.

“Hopefully, between now and Christmas we’ll hire an architect who will start designing it and give us a price estimate,” Farrell said.

The high school and the bus barn were both built in the mid-1960s.

“Our problem is that not only is the high school in need of a lot of repairs, but it’s really not a building for 21st century education,” Farrell said. “Our science labs are a good example – they’re way too small and outdated. Essentially, we’ve outgrown the building. Almost every room is used nearly 100 percent of the time now.”

The bus barn was built as a temporary structure some 30 years ago, he said.

During its visit to Steamboat, the group from Aspen is hoping to figure out how to accomplish a major renovation without disrupting classes.

“We’ll probably have to do it in phases,” Farrell said. “So we’ll build the additions first and then move the kids into there as we renovate the other parts of the building. It’s probably a two-year project.”

If the bond issue passes on next November’s ballot, the project could be completed as soon as the spring of 2003, Farrell speculated. “It would be nice if that happened,” he said.

“We could structure the bond in such a way that we wouldn’t have to start paying off the high school bond until the elementary school bond is paid off,” he said.

Aspen voters approved a $10 million bond to build the elementary school in 1992.

“We don’t expect a significant change for taxpayers,” Farrell said.


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