It’s not about enrollment | AspenTimes.com

It’s not about enrollment

Dear Editor:I am writing in response to John Colson’s article that appeared in the Oct. 6 edition of The Aspen Times concerning the Aspen School District’s plan to build a new middle school. Mr. Colson was correct in stating that the issue is about building a new middle school! It is not about increasing capacity in the elementary school, as a group of parents would have us believe.The current middle school building is 35 years old and is badly in need of a new roof, plumbing, and mechanical and electrical systems. In addition, no fire sprinkler system exists in the building. The cost for renovating the building would be around $14 million. (This includes the $1 million to house the middle school students in portables for one year during construction.) If the 3B bond referendum passes, the new middle school would be constructed in an L-shape wrapping around the current middle school, and our children would not be displaced into portables during the year of construction. The cost of a new middle school would be $22.5 million. This is the issue.Our laudable, small-class-size policy has led to the need for 30 classrooms in our elementary school. When the elementary school was built in 1991, it was designed for 25 classrooms. These extra five classrooms are currently housed in an auxiliary gym, a tiered music room and rooms with no natural lighting. The five additional classrooms that would be built as a result of the passage of 3B would not result in additional classrooms for increased capacity. The construction of the additional classrooms would allow the gym, music room and other rooms to be reclaimed for their original purposes. Consequently, the issue is not about increasing capacity at the elementary school.Mr. Colson’s article also raised the issue of project costs. There is no crystal ball that can predict the state of our national economy. Skeptics will be raising that issue each year a new school building is being considered. Additionally, we do know that the longer we wait, the higher the costs will be both for construction and interest rates. If 3B passes, the school board will be able to authorize the construction team to begin bidding prices for construction supplies, thereby locking in lower prices sooner rather than later.For these reasons I feel the time is now for us to vote in favor of 3B to build a new middle school. I urge voters with further questions to attend the school district’s next community informational meeting Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at Aspen High School, or visit our website at http://www.buildingforexcellence.com.Blanca O’LearyChair, Building for Excellence CommitteeAspen

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