New school comes just in time for growing Basalt |

New school comes just in time for growing Basalt

A major reconstruction of Basalt Elementary School is coming just in time this year to deal with a boom in the student population.The number of students at the school jumped from 540 last year to 560 this year, according to Principal Suzanne Wheeler-Del Piccolo. A large kindergarten class is already enrolled for next year, so the best guess at this point is the school population will swell to 570, she said. That’s a growth of 5.5 percent over two years.Even before the growth trend became clear, voters in the Roaring Fork School District approved a property tax increase to build new schools or renovate existing ones in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs.Basalt will get a new 80,000-square-foot elementary school for about $10.3 million. Currently the school is divided among three buildings. One entire building and another partial one will be demolished this summer. When construction is completed by fall 2006, the school will be under one roof.While working on the design, school officials decided the school needed to be larger than originally planned due to swelling enrollment. The school district’s master plan, created a few years ago, assumed an elementary school student population of 542. It has already surpassed that and is growing.Without increasing the size, the new school would have been full immediately.”We would have been moving into a building that would fit us like a glove – with no room for growth,” Wheeler-Del Piccolo said.But wise planning prevailed and the design was altered to add four new classrooms. Every grade level will have one more classroom than currently exists. There will be seven classrooms for each grade one through three and six for the fourth graders. It was already in the plan to build eight kindergarten classrooms.Wheeler-Del Piccolo said the school might not need all those rooms immediately, but they will grow into them. She said classroom sizes will be maintained at 16 to 18 kids in grades kindergarten through third and at 20 for fourth grade.The growth in enrollment at Basalt Elementary is divided about evenly between Anglos and Latinos, according to Wheeler-Del Piccolo. She said an even 50-50 split has been maintained at the school during her seven years as an administrator there.The new school will feature a lower level built around a courtyard and a smaller second floor that is at grade with the ground at the front entrance. That entrance will be easy to identify, unlike now with the three buildings.Wheeler-Del Piccolo said her staff made the best of running a school divided into three buildings, but being under one roof will benefit both teachers and students. Students won’t require as much time going to different classes and activities, which often had to be in another building. And teachers will now see one another regularly rather than being split as far apart as a quarter mile.The elementary school buildings used to serve as the entire school campus, kindergarten through high school. The elementary school inherited all three buildings when growth required construction of separate middle and high schools.Construction of the new school will create somewhat of a challenge next school year. Classes will be held in temporary modular trailers that will be spread throughout the campus for 2005-06. The red brick building that’s part of the campus will also be used. That building won’t be torn down. Instead the plan is to use it as a community center.Wheeler-Del Piccolo said any parent who hasn’t reviewed the new school design can contact her at 384-5800 for an appointment to look at the plans.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is

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