After more than a decade of being an idea in the ether, if not a project in the works, the notion to build a new middle school for the Grand County School District is finally getting somewhere.
“We don’t know where it’s going to go or what it’s going to look like,” Grand County School Board Member Jim Webster said but, “The decision’s been made” to begin the process.
On Wednesday, Dec. 13, the board voted to hire an architect for the project, indicating that a new middle school’s time has finally come.
Webster said that the time for a new school came 10 or so years ago, when an update to the district’s general plan identified the district’s facility needs.
“A lot of the facilities had been built in the '50s and early '60s in order to respond to the huge influx of residents and children during the uranium days,” Webster said. “A lot of those buildings were nearing the end of their life.”
The middle school was a priority then, Webster said, but not quite high enough to be included in a construction bond the district asked for, and which voters approved. The bond paid for the new Helen M. Knight Elementary School and the Technical Science and Art Center building at the high school, but wasn’t enough for the middle school.
Neither district officials nor the community were ready for another bond and the imposed tax burden that would come with one.
“A bond wasn’t going to be the answer, so we started slowly building a capital projects fund in our budget so that at some point we could afford to build a new school,” Webster said.
But that became a question in itself: Build a new school? Or could the district get away with rehabilitating or refurbishing the current one? Based on the condition of the building as well as the meat of discussions among officials, the district decided to build anew.
In the intervening time, conditions at the building have gotten worse. “We consciously did not spend a lot of money on that school in terms of repairs because we knew we were going to be doing something with that school soon,” Webster added.
“Soon,” apparently, is now.
The discussion at the moment is where to put the new school. Webster said there are really two options. The property where the middle school is currently located is one; the other is property still owned by the district — called the old Red Rock property — where the old elementary school was.
Some of this, however, was apparently little known to some of those who would be most interested in the project: middle school teachers.
At the board’s meeting last week, Board Member Peggy Nissen said she wanted to make sure those teachers got updated.
“Some at the middle school didn’t know we were as far along as we are,” Nissen said.