Guest Commentary: School district is planning for the future

This has been a busy year for the Poudre School District Board of Education, including discussion and approval of the Long Range Facilities Plan. As a Wellington native and product of Wellington schools, I am especially excited to be involved in helping to plan for growth in our community. Two of the schools I attended no longer exist. That is an example of change the school district continues to manage today and the type of situations our facilities plan must address.

By Carolyn Reed
District E (which includes Wellington) representative on the Poudre School District Board of Education

However, right now we are struggling to accommodate the growth we have seen the last few years and that trend does not appear to be slowing anytime soon. As the ninth largest school district in Colorado, PSD is projected to continue growing and hit 31,670 students by 2020. We currently have 57 modular classrooms with another 20 scheduled by 2018. Our four comprehensive high schools average 102 percent of their building capacity and school choice is becoming more and more limited. Without new schools and improvements to our aging buildings, our schools will continue to deteriorate and be overcrowded. I believe our students will suffer if this happens.

On Aug. 9, the PSD Board of Education will consider approval of language for a bond on the November ballot to pay for new facilities and improvements to existing buildings. The process of planning for projected growth began in 2014 and included a demographic study of the region, creation of a Community Facilities Advisory Committee (with Wellington representatives) and extensive community engagement to solicit input from stakeholders. More than 175 public meetings were held, (with many being streamed live online) targeting parents, community members, businesses and staff.

Feedback was logged from all meetings and used to inform decisions around the growth plan. The final plan contains four major components:

1. New construction
a. New elementary school east of Interstate 25 and south of Colorado 392
b. An addition to Zach Elementary (to replace modular classrooms)
c. New middle school/high school on Prospect Road east of I-25
d. New middle school/high school in the Wellington area.

2. Ongoing facilities improvements,
a. Improvements to existing buildings including deferred maintenance and priority improvements.

3. New athletic complex at the proposed Prospect School Site.

4. Renovated transportation maintenance facility to replace the inadequate north terminal facility.

The total cost for the proposed plan is $375 million. PSD has structured the bond so that it will be phased in over six years with the current tax rate of 52.63 mills expected to stay the same with no increase to the tax rate. For detailed information about the bond, what it will pay for and what the alternate growth plan involves (in the event the Bond fails), visit www.psdschools.org.

With a crowded ballot, it is critical that everyone vote. I am hopeful the Wellington community will continue to show it values education and support the bond. If the bond fails, our community will be impacted with even more limited school choice, more modular classrooms, overcrowded buildings, larger class sizes and deteriorating buildings. In addition, boundaries will most likely need to be modified and we could even see potential split shifts at schools.

This is not good for kids and I hope you will join us in working to ensure our students have bright futures with high quality facilities and learning environments. Please take the time to learn more about the upcoming election, the growth plan and what it will do for Wellington and our entire community.

Thank you for your support of our schools and children. They deserve the best we can offer.

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