Guest commentary: Bond measure is paying off for Aspen School District

Dear Aspen School District community,

It’s been about 18 months since voters approved a $94.3 million bond measure to fund Aspen School District’s highest priority capital facility needs, and just over a year since those funds were made available to the district.

The district is excited about the progress being made, especially given the many benefits tied to these necessary improvements:

— Attracting and retaining quality teachers and staff by providing expanded affordable housing options

— Making our schools healthier, safer and more secure

— Extending the useful life of our existing school buildings

— Reducing costly and disruptive emergency repairs

— Improving energy efficiency and sustainability

— Addressing instructional space needs

The following is a detailed summary of the types of capital improvement projects being undertaken, the status of those improvements, and estimated costs:

Affordable employee housing

To date, more than $13 million has been allocated to new housing acquisitions and subsequent improvements. An additional $700,000 has gone toward upgrades and maintenance to existing housing stock. An additional $36 million from the bond proceeds is budgeted for employee housing, which may include the construction of new housing.

Safety and security upgrades

About $4.6 million is being invested in important safety and security upgrades districtwide this summer and fall. The upgrades will facilitate more informed and timely security decisions and help provide a safer learning environment.

Replacing outdated plumbing, HVAC systems and roofing.

To extend the useful life of the district’s existing facilities, approximately $18.5 million is being allocated to deferred maintenance projects. There will be a big push this summer to address many of these projects, with some of the first upgrades to include the Aspen District Theater and work in every building on the Aspen School District campus.

Improving classrooms, science labs, libraries and performing arts spaces.

Minor renovations in each building will occur this summer and into fall as the district works to update and improve instructional spaces. The work occurring for the balance of 2022 will be a partial expenditure of approximately $6 million, which is also shared with creating flexible and adaptive learning environments.

Flexible and adaptive learning environments

Cuningham Architects is working closely with school principals and staff in planning for instructional space upgrades, including replacing outdated furniture at each school, beginning in the summer of 2022. Approximately $933,000 is allocated for the furnishings ordered for this year alone. Many classrooms will be affected positively by this investment.

Energy efficiency upgrades

As a part of various sustainability initiatives, an active study to provide photovoltaic (PV) panels on our building roofs, over parking areas, and in open spaces is underway. That work could begin as early as this fall with ongoing improvements installed through 2023. The district has purchased four electric buses and new charging stations at the bus barn. Through a grant from AltFuels Colorado, a partnership between the Colorado Energy Office and Regional Air Quality Council, about 87% of the cost of the buses and charging stations will be reimbursed. This will help further stretch the bond proceeds.

Space needs at the preschool

The district and its partners could never have projected the extent to which construction costs would increase as a result of supply chain issues and other factors. As a result, the district has had to make hard choices on what to scale back. One project that has been put on hold is the complete rebuild of the Cottage preschool. In the meantime, the district will be working to identify funding solutions to deliver on the promise of a new early childhood education facility.

The district is committed to continuing to provide project updates and addressing any questions you might have regarding the 2020 bond projects.

We appreciate your continued interest and support as we work together to provide our students with the best possible learning environments.

David Baugh is superintendent of the Aspen School District and Katy Frisch is president of the Board of Education.