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Dove Creek Elementary breaks ground on school after receiving BEST grant

Dove Creek elementary students break ground on their new elementary school Thursday morning. (Bailey Duran/Special to the Journal)
The district has been working for grant approval since 2019

On Thursday morning, the Dove Creek school district broke ground on its new elementary school after being approved for the BEST grant.

Teachers, school administration, parents, members of the community, students and more were present at the groundbreaking, sitting on the grass where the new gym will stand at the start of the 2024-2025 school year.

Chris Guarino, the head of the construction’s project management, talked to the Dove Creek students sitting on the lawn in front of him, telling them about their new school.

“I am extremely honored to have the privilege of serving all of you and your community,” he said.

Parents, teachers, students and members of the community sat where the new school will stand for the groundbreaking ceremony. (Bailey Duran/Special to the Journal)

Guarino told those in attendance that the playground equipment sitting where the new school will soon stand will be moved to either the fairgrounds or Cahone Park instead of being trashed or demolished. He also added that they would try to save and replant as many trees in the area as they can.

A virtual reality station has also been set up in the old school which allows those who are interested to get a 3D virtual reality view of the future school.

“Be careful though. Make sure you don’t walk into any real walls while you’re looking at virtual walls,” he joked.

“This year when you come back to school, this is going to be a full-on construction site with construction fencing all around,” Guarino told students.

In the fall, students and teachers will be able to tour the construction site and see how the school is coming along as it goes through the building process.

They will also have a beam signing ceremony around Halloween. He explained that before the last beam was placed by a crane, all elementary students, their teachers and members of the community would be able to sign the beam.

After Guarino handed the microphone over to Superintendent Ty Gray, Gray told those in attendance how excited he was for the school construction to finally be underway after trying to be approved for the BEST grant since 2019.

“We’re supposed to shoot for the stars, so we really shot for the stars,” he said.

He also spoke of the community’s support, saying learning what the community wanted for the district helped as they went through the application process.

“Going through that process was a huge help for us and the community as we move forward,” he said.

The school was granted $12.6 million from BEST through the capital construction program of the Colorado Department of Education.

They also went through a bond in November 2022 which provided the rest of the money needed to build the school, bringing the school building budget to $22.9 million. The bond provided $10.3 million.

“The community came through. It wasn’t even close,” Gray said.

Elementary Principal Charlotte Forst spoke of the many hours the school administration spent filling out paperwork to put their best foot forward for the grant.

A banner with a photo of the new school stood at the groundbreaking ceremony for all to see. (Bailey Duran/Special to the Journal)

She told a story of how she and Superintendent Gray traveled to Alamosa in 2019 as part of the BEST grant process and made a few stops on the way back to Dove Creek.

Their stops included the new elementary schools in Bayfield and Mancos.

“The funny thing is, is I've always taught in old buildings,” Forst said. “I went to school here; it’s good enough to get by. We’re tough, right? But I saw that building and I saw the inequity, and I saw that our kids don't have as nice of a building as the other students in the state do and that just broke my heart.”

Forst also thanked Guarino and the rest of his team and the construction team, saying they made them feel cared for from the beginning.

“Your hearts are in it. We felt like you guys cared about us from the very, very beginning,” she said. “So thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

She gave a shoutout to teachers, thanking them for working so hard and sticking it out, acknowledging that their current elementary school is “not so awesome.”

She told stories of electrical issues, and even going into the first-grade classroom and trying to get the room to at least 60 degrees because the heater wasn’t working.

With the children in attendance counting down from five, the school board, superintendent and principal donned hard hats and officially broke ground on the new school to the sound of cheering.

After, with excited encouragement from students, teachers took their turn breaking ground before students were given a chance to break ground in their new school.

Each class from first grade to fifth grade were given a turn, and the students cheered excitedly as they tossed dirt into the air, marking a new beginning for elementary school students in Dove Creek.

The school will begin construction this summer and is expected to open its doors officially for the 2024-2025 school year.