The extensive Dolores School Board RE-4A meeting on Thursday made a decision on Phase 1 one of its master building plan and discussed permanent substitute teachers and affordable housing among other agenda items.
The meeting started out with a celebration report from the elementary school, and the fifth grade counselor invited some of the fifth grade students to speak on their trip and tour of Fort Lewis College in Durango.
A boy named Jackson talked about the extracurricular activities Fort Lewis offers and said, “I didn’t think I wanted to go to college, but now I want to go there.”
A girl named Harley told the board she had dyslexia and had previously thought it would keep her from going to college.
“I thought I couldn’t go to college because of my dyslexia, but I learned I can get a scholarship because of my dyslexia. “If anyone can be successful, I can too,” she said.
The biggest discussion of the evening surrounded the topic of the school’s building master plan and the details surrounding Phase 1 of the project. This project has been in the works for nearly three years, and the board invited builders Max McClusky and Monty Guiles to speak on the plans and the cost.
McClusky started by telling the board he had been crunching numbers for weeks to get the best possible estimate of the cost of Phase 1. He told the board that material and labor costs are up because of inflation, and estimated they were up by 8%. He said the global market is affecting the price as well.
The original cost of the project was $28.2 million, but inflation has raised the cost by nearly $2 million. Now, the total cost of Phase 1 is nearly $29.5 million, or $703 per square foot. The board noted it would max out its bond capacity and mills to levy no matter the size of the project.
Guiles encouraged the board to embrace the number, saying the only way to reduce the price would be to start cutting down on square footage or pieces of the project which are needed by students.
“We put our best foot forward, own the number and move forward,” he said. “This is where we’re at, and we have to own it and embrace it. If we want the number smaller, we’ll have to change the scope of the project.”
Phase 1 includes an infield building between the commons and the current high school, a new two-story high school, a covered walkway to the new science building, which will include agriculture labs and offices, renovations to the cafeteria, administrative office, lobby for the gym, new bus lane and dedicated parking for high school students and staff. They will also shift the current playground into the heart of campus for added safety.
Board President Maegan Crowley said she believed it was “important to complete the vision and provide for students’ needs.” The board unanimously voted to move forward with Phase 1 in its full scope, and it will be officially voted on by the public in November while the board works toward gaining approval for the BEST grant.
Superintendent Reece Blincoe thanked McClusky and Guiles for their “hard work” on the project.
“I want to commend you on the way you listen to the community,” Crowley added.
Phase 1 will be presented to the BEST grant board. If the BEST grant is awarded, it will cover nearly all the building costs for Phase 1.
Other action items approved were to hire two permanent substitute teachers to fill in when teachers are unable to make it to class. They will begin hiring teachers immediately.
Jessica Kuntz was unanimously hired as the new high school English teacher, and Steve Brace was hired as the temporary mentor for the interim transportation director.
The board again discussed building affordable housing for teachers in the district. Blincoe spoke of HB 1350, which was passed last year and provides $90 million grants to use for this purpose.
If the school decided to move forward and was approved for the grant, Pueblo Community College and Dolores High School students in building and architectural classes would have the opportunity to help build the homes and learn building skills.
The modular houses cost $100 to $150 per square foot and are rebuilt on-site. Blincoe said that all the school would have to pay for would be the foundations of the homes.
The next Dolores School Board meeting will take place on Feb. 9.