Time for a middle-school makeover?

Eben Harrell

The Aspen School District is investigating the cost of refurbishing its aging middle school in preparation for a possible new tax proposal.

The district has put out a “bid for proposals” to construction companies to find out how much money it would need to give the nearly 30-year-old school a makeover.

“It needs refurbishment,” Superintendent Diana Sirko said. “It was built in the 1970s and it’s reached an age where it really needs an upgrade.”

Once the district discovers how much a refurbishment will cost, it will convene special meetings of its asset committee and financial advisory board to discuss how it will pay for the project.

Although she refused to venture a guess as to how much the refurbishment would cost, Sirko said the district’s capital fund likely does not currently have enough cash to cover the project. The school’s special revenue fund, which includes money from the sale of the Red and Yellow Brick schoolhouses 12 years ago, would also likely fall short.

The probable option, according to Sirko, is to ask local voters for a new tax. But that’s something that’s a long way off, she stressed.

“We don’t want to send the impression to the community that we have already determined that we are going for a bond,” Sirko said. “We are just in the early stages of asking, do we need to upgrade the facility.”

In 2000, Aspen voters passed a $40 million bond to pay for a 106,000-square-foot expansion and refurbishment of Aspen High School.

The district is also finding out how much it would cost to expand the middle school building. If the district makes changes, those changes should be flexible to cope with possible growth in Aspen’s population, according to Sirko.

“It would be foolish not to address that we have Burlingame [an affordable housing project] coming in and we may need some additional space,” she said. “But the purpose of this is not to increase capacity, but to increase quality of facility.”

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