The crowd was a little smaller — perhaps 15 people—for the monthly citizen-commissioner meeting that Commissioner Lew Gaiter holds at 7:30 a.m. on the first Thursday of the month at T-Bar Inn, 3803 Cleveland Ave. in Wellington. Nevertheless, there was plenty of enthusiasm and plenty of questions.
Poudre School District Superintendent Sandra Smyser and Wellington-based Board of Education member Carolyn Reed were present to discuss and answer questions about the upcoming election. Citizens will have an opportunity to vote on a bond issue and mill levy to make possible the district’s growth plan.
If the $375 million bond issue and $2 million to $8 million operational mill levy are approved in November, the school district will be well on its way to accommodating growth with new buildings and by continuing to maintain and improve existing facilities.
The district’s plans are the result of many months of listening to community needs, researching the areas where growth is most likely to occur and making difficult decisions about how best to accommodate anticipated growth. The long range facilities planning committee was charged with this task and came up with the following plan.
About $313 million is allocated for construction of a new middle/high school on Prospect Road east of Interstate 25, a middle/high school in the Wellington area, an elementary school east of I-25 in southeast Fort Collins, an addition to Zach Elementary School in Fort Collins to replace modular classrooms, an athletic complex at the Prospect Road high school site site, and a transportation maintenance facility in the north part of the district.
Another $40 million will be set aside for school-based requests and critical maintenance that has been deferred. The remainder will be used for bond issue expenses, bond project coordination and a reserve fund.
Mill levy funds will be spent for instructional and facilities staff salaries, materials, equipment and the cost of technology related to growth. “The mill levy will replace the one currently in place and therefore will not result in an increase in taxes,” Smyser explained.
The district has developed alternate growth strategies that will be implemented if the bond and mill issues fail. It would be necessary to further limiting school choice and, build 20 to 40 modular classrooms in the next five years, each housing 50 students in two classrooms at a cost of $200,000 each. Class sizes would become larger. The district would be forced to modify boundaries, initiate split shifts and early morning/late night practice schedules for athletic facilities and forego most facilities improvements.
Smyser and Reed explained that the need for a bond issue and new mill levy results from population growth in the area and shortfalls in state funding complicated by the Tabor and Gallagher amendments. “Colorado ranks 48th among the states in school funding,” Smyser said.
Wellington residents have long been in favor of bringing a high school back to the area. Wellington resident Gail Meisner remembered missing the opportunity to participate in high school sports because she lived so far from Poudre High School. “Many families are not able to provide transportation for their children, and they miss out on after-school activities.”
Richard Seaworth, a Wellington resident who attended Poudre High School, said he appreciated the opportunities available in a larger school.
“We’re planning to provide a wide range of classes by alternating the subjects taught every other year in the new Wellington High School,” Smyser said.
The conversation that followed revolved around new opportunities to earn college credits while still in high school, the need for early and continuous career counseling for high school students and the importance of emphasizing the value of vocational training programs.
The need for highly trained mechanics, electricians, heating and air conditioning workers and plumbers has encouraged Front Range Community College to consider offering classes in the Wellington area. Such a move would dovetail nicely with the new high school.
The next citizen-commissioner meeting is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 6 at the T-Bar Inn. Gaiter said he has invited State Rep. Perry Buck and State Sen. Kevin Lundberg to speak.