Voters in Durango School District 9-R are being asked this November to approve up to $90 million in bonds to improve safety and security at schools and repair a long list of deferred maintenance needs at every school in the district.
The most costly price tag on any single item that voters would pay for if they approve Ballot Issue 4A would be an estimated $45 million to demolish and rebuild Miller Middle School on its current site. The district has determined design and maintenance problems are so severe it would be cheaper to build from new rather than repair the existing structure.
Bonds would also pay for a new $10 million career and technical education center, most likely on the Durango High School campus, where students interested in plumbing, electrical, auto mechanics, culinary arts, woodworking and other trades that don’t require a college degree would have specialty labs and the proper equipment to learn their professions.
Because old bonds issued in the early 2000s are expiring, if voters pass the $90 million bond, the current 5.776 mill levy would not increase.
However, if voters reject issuance of the new bonds, the owner of a $400,000 home could see his or her property tax bill go down by $166 a year by 2024, as the old bonds are paid off.
Since the Great Recession of 2018, 9-R, facing pinched budgets, has spent about $1 million annually on maintenance and repairs for its 1 million square feet in buildings. But guidelines from the Colorado Department of Education recommend a district the size of 9-R should be spending about $5 million annually on maintenance and repair of its capital stock.
“It seems like a great opportunity to meet these needs to improve schools for all students in the Durango area, without increasing taxes. As a board, we feel this investment in our schools is in the best interests of our children and the Durango community,” 9-R Board of Education President Shere Byrd said in August before board members unanimously decided to ask voters to OK issuance of up to $90 million in bonds.
Also, Durango’s charter schools, Animas High School, Mountain Middle School and The Juniper School would each receive $2.5 million if voters approve the measure.
In the case of Animas High School, the $2.5 million would aid the school as it seeks to raise the $4.4 million required local match to obtain a $13.7 million state BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) grant. The money would go to build a new permanent building for AHS on the campus of Fort Lewis College.
In addition, 9-R is looking to relocate Big Picture High School into an adjoining building to AHS and perhaps share some facilities with AHS, such as science and art labs and gyms.
Security and safety upgrades at many schools would include vestibules with bullet-resistant glass for secure entry and the provision of classroom locks that can be locked from the inside and the outside of each class, so-called Columbine locks.
Some of the money would also go to pay for technology upgrades – more computers and better Wi-Fi at schools and to bring fiber-optic lines to two schools that are still linked to the internet via microwave signals.
The money would also replace seven school buses that have more than 215,000 miles on their odometers.
Here’s a breakdown of what the money would pay for at 9-R schools.
Animas Valley ElementaryBuilt in 1994 with a 2004 addition, this 60,000-square-foot school would receive new rooftop heating ventilation and air conditioning units and fans with the capacity to integrate solar power. Repairs would be made to cracked walls from settlement. Old stucco would be refinished. Work includes improved insulation and resealing windows. The school would also get new interior paint, carpeting and floors as well as new playground equipment. Finally, the parking lot would be repaired. Estimated cost, $3.1 million.
Big Picture HighBuilt in 1957, this 35,000-square-foot building is proposed to be sold to raise an estimated $7 million to $11 million in addition to the bonds for the district’s capital needs. The bonds would fund $2.5 million for Big Picture to move to a building at FLC adjacent to the new Animas High facility. The schools would share some facilities such as science labs. Estimated cost, $2.5 million.
Durango HighBuilt in 1977 with additions in 1998, 2002 and 2006, this 245,000-square-foot building would receive HVAC repairs, a secure entry vestibule with bullet-resistant glass, classroom Columbine locks, a redeveloped bus drop-off area, improved hallway access and ramps, better wheelchair access and lifts, new insulation, replacement of older exterior doors, replacement of older windows, resealing of other windows, new lockers, repaving of parking lots and interior repainting. Estimated cost, $11.6 million.
Career & Technical Education CenterA facility to improve educational laboratories, workshops, mechanic bays, kitchens and other learning spaces for students interested in fields related to homebuilding, auto mechanics, the culinary arts and other trades that don’t require a college degree would go up on the DHS campus. Estimated cost, $10 million.
Escalante MiddleBuilt in 1992 with an addition in 2004, this 110,800-square-foot building would get improved HVAC with the ability to integrate solar power. Also on the list are: a secure vestibule with bullet-resistant glass, a fix of the band room so it can be secured in a lockdown, improved fencing for security, replacement of older roofs, increased insulation, replacement of old exterior doors and hardware, replacement of old windows and repair of window seals, a remodel of aging bathrooms, replacement of carpeting, replacement of stucco and repair of damaged concrete in front of the school. Estimated cost, $11.38 million.
Florida Mesa ElementaryBuilt in 1959 with an addition in 2004, this 61,000-square-foot building would receive a secure vestibule with bullet-resistant glass, replacement of an on-site water system, replacement of aging roofs and an increase in roof insulation and HVAC improvements that include the potential to integrate solar would come. Replacement of older windows and newer glazing on other windows, and replacement of older doors and other hardware are on the list. New stucco, improved drainage on the north side of the building, landscaping, replacement of folding partitions and a new fire alarm system are also planned. Estimated cost, $2.5 million.
Fort Lewis Mesa ElementaryBuilt in 1961, with additions in 1981 and 2003, this 53,000-square-foot building would receive a secure vestibule with bullet-resistant glass. Aging roof areas would be replaced. Older exterior doors would be replaced. Old windows would be replaced and resealed. A boiler unit would be replaced, and overall HVAC improvements would occur. A tap would be made to a new central water system now available. Fire protection upgrades would be made. Walls would be remodeled down to the wainscot. The building would also get better waterproof sealant from floor to windows. Damaged sidewalks would be repaired and new playground equipment installed. Estimated cost, $1.8 million.
Miller Middle SchoolA complete rebuild would occur for this building, which went up in 1966 with additions in 1972 and 1999. The new building would go up on the current 12-acre site for the school. Estimated cost, $45 million.
Needham ElementaryBuilt in 1951 with additions in 1961, 1995 and 2004, this 70,815-square-foot building would get improved HVAC with the ability to integrate solar power, a secure vestibule with bullet-resistant glass, a redesigned parking lot and bus drop-off, asphalt repairs, expanded cafeteria and kitchen, replacement of aging roofs and roof insulation, replacement of older doors and hardware, replacement of older windows and resealing of windows, interior painting, replacement of folding partitions, remodeled bathrooms, new carpet and new stucco. Estimated cost, $8.37 million.
Park ElementaryBuilt in 1957 with additions in 1989 and 2004, this 65,500-square-foot building would get a new secure vestibule with bullet-resistant glass, Columbine-type classroom locks, replacement of aging roofs and better roof insulation, replacement of old doors and hardware, replacement of old windows and repair of window seals, replaced boilers and other HVAC fixes, interior repaint, new carpeting, enlarged cafeteria and kitchen, new stucco and repaved parking lot. Estimated cost, $3.23 million.
Riverview ElementaryBuilt in 2004, this 69,700-square-foot building would get HVAC improvements, better waterproofing at mortar joints in walls, landscape improvements including removal of a tree causing asphalt problems, repaving, a new playground surface, roof repairs and increased roof insulation and replacement of folding partitions. Estimated cost, $2.65 million.
Sunnyside ElementaryBuilt in 1962 with additions in 1987 and 2004, this 53,500-square-foot building would get a secure vestibule with bullet-resistant glass, a new septic system, replacement of aging roofs and increased roof insulation, new roof details to eliminate leaks, replacement of older doors and hardware, replacement of older windows, window seal fixes, upgraded electrical system, interior painting, HVAC ventilator unit replacement, sidewalk fixes, new asphalt in parking lots, redesigned traffic controls in parking lots, new playground equipment, new playground surface, asbestos abatement and new lighting at the entry. Estimated cost, $1.84 million.