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Dolores school committee evaluates three sites for new school

Committee recommends Northrop property
At the June 11 board meeting, architectural firm RATIO presented the three properties evaluated as being possible options for a new Dolores school site. The site selection committee found the Northrop property (Property 1) to be the preferred location.

Although no final decision has been made, a Dolores schools committee prefers building a campus just south of Joe Rowell Park.

The Dolores school board approved building a new school in March, but first must win voter approval of a matching bond and complete a competitive state application.

The process has moved forward. At Dolores School District Re-4A’s June 11 meeting, the consulting architectural firm RATIO presented three properties that had been evaluated as options for a new campus.

District facilities came to the forefront of discussions this school year. Initially, the district looked to renovate the existing school with the help of a state Building Excellent Schools Today grant. In August, the board approved a master plan to guide the BEST grant application, with elements including a new secondary school and a more secure perimeter.

But in the fall, state engineers, architects and other officials evaluated the site and proposed moving the whole campus, largely because of the difficulty of construction in the current site’s floodplain.

The district then began looking at school-worthy parcels of land and presenting the two options at a November community forum. At the time, the estimated cost of staying on-site came out to $45 million, while moving locations would be $57 million. Regardless of the choice, though, the district would seek the maximum amount from a bond in November: the bond capacity of $8.2 million.

The BEST grant was due this winter, but the board voted in December to delay the decision after facing community opposition. In March, it voted 3-2 to pursue a new location in an upcoming BEST grant cycle, with board members Casey McClellan and Clay Tallmadge dissenting.

The building project’s timeline is still uncertain, especially with all the disruptions caused by COVID-19 this year. The board is scheduled to discuss the project at a July 9 work session.

But the site selection process has been going on, and at the board’s regular meeting June 11, Max McCloskey of RATIO presented evaluations of three finalists for a new school.

The properties had been evaluated by a site selection committee, which included eight volunteer representatives from the town, community and school district. Some of their primary focal points revolved around CDOT access, the feasibility and expense of utilities and the presence of archaeological findings.

“We started to look into, at this point in the process, what kind of data we could discover without going too deep into it and not unnecessarily spending money to understand what we might come across for the preferred site,” McCloskey said of the archaeological findings concerns.

The first option, the Northrop property, is a 121-acre parcel at 29733 Colorado Highway 184. It somewhat overlooks Joe Rowell Park and is the closest to the town of Dolores at 1.6 miles away. It would cost $795,000.Property 2, the Taylor property, is at the intersection of Colorado highways 145 and 184, with an address along County Road T.5. It is 59.15 acres and 2.1 miles away from town. It costs $315,000.The third option, the O’Brien property, is east of the other sites at 29998 Colorado 184. It is 94.4 acres, is 2.4 miles away from town, and would cost $395,000.The site selection committee then rated the three properties on qualities including location, lot size, utilities, security, partnerships and cost. Based on the RATIO scoring matrix, which added together the ratings from each committee member on the different categories, the Northrop property was found to be most favorable.

At the June 11 meeting, the Dolores school board discussed the results of the site selection’s decision, honing in on the cost effectiveness of each option, the access points, and Re-4A’s prospects in receiving a BEST grant. No decisions were reached or actions taken, though.

Next steps will be discussed at the July work session.