Family issues kept Poudre School District Superintendent Sandra Smyser away from a meeting at the Leeper Center in Wellington September 25, convened to discuss the possibility of building a high school in town.
Instead school board member Carolyn Reed and executive director of operations Pete Hall came to hear out a small but forceful group describe the explosive growth of their town, the importance of a high school to nurturing a sense of community in their town and their insistence upon being heard as PSD makes plans for the future. Hall’s duties include designing and construction of new schools in the district as well as interim and long-term planning. He gathers facts and reports to the school board.
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Among those present at the meeting were town administrator Larry Lorentzen, trustees Tim Singewald, Travis Harless, Matt Michel, Ashley Macdonald, mayor Jack Brinkhoff and representatives of the Chamber of Commerce — Walter Lamia, Diana Pronko and Wendell Nelson. Architect Chuck Mayhugh, local business owner Chad Zadina and a “Facebook Mom” representing a group of parents who could not attend, each had chance to speak their piece.
Singewald referred to a prepared six-page summary of Wellington’s population, household income, economy, housing, ethnicity, predicted growth and percentage of commuters to jobs outside the community. He described recent plans to revitalize downtown, develop a comprehensive parks and trails system and create an I-25 underpass in order to emphasize the growing vitality of the community. He pointed out the rapid growth rate and the fact that the largest segment of newcomers are those between the ages of 25 and 34, people likely to have young children.
After Hall explained the complexities a school district faces as it plans for the future in a fast-growing area, the townspeople lost no time in expressing their feelings about the importance of a high school, not only as a place for education but as a center of community for their town.
Trustee and father of five, Matt Michel, pointed out the fact that some families leave town when their children reach high school age because of the distance to Poudre High School, the difficulty of taking part in after school activities and safety issues around teens driving to school.
Several people mentioned fond memories of Friday night football games, band-day parades and other community activities that happen when there’s a high school in town.
Veterinarian and owner of Tabby Road Clinic, Chad Zadina, echoed Michel’s feelings and recalled his youth spent in towns much smaller than Wellington that had their own high school. “Now we’re asking, but pretty soon we’re going to be demanding a high school,” Zadina said.
“The town may need to do something more than normal to get this school,” Mayhugh said. “Is the board willing to do some creative thinking to help us get a school?”
He wondered if it would be possible to build a charter school and he said there was interest in town in a school that would cater more to vocational trades than a traditional high school does.
“There’s nothing I’d like to see more than a high school in Wellington,” said Reed, a graduate of Wellington schools and Poudre High School. “Your input will make a difference. I need to reflect your issues. The school board has an obligation to you. However, in the end, the decision is up to a vote of the people.”
Hall said that over the years he’d spoken with several different people in Wellington about the school issue. He indicated the need for one representative to express the desires of the community. Singewald agreed. Mayhugh suggested that they form an ad hoc committee to work with the school board on an on-going basis.
Timnath is a fast-growing area that may soon seek a high school. “There’s a big buck developer planning to build 1,000 homes in Timnath. It’s pretty obvious that a new high school will be built there given the numbers,” Mayhugh said.
Michel and Zadina agreed that Wellington citizens are likely to feel that their tax dollars don’t count because their homes are in the $200, 000 range, much less expensive than the average newer home in Timnath.
Superintendent Smyser has scheduled a visit to Wellington on November 4. No doubt she will find that there will be plenty to talk about.