The group met for the first time Monday, Dec. 17, to begin discussing the question that has been debated for years. Superintendent Scott Crane urged them to give the school board a recommendation by Feb. 28.
“I feel this conversation has gone around and around,” he said. “We need to make a decision.”
It’s time to act, he added, because whatever course is chosen will take two to three years to implement.
Grand County Middle School Principal and committee member Melinda Snow did not attend the meeting due to illness. However, she said during a later interview that the school’s plumbing is “extremely antiquated.”
“All the water that comes out of the faucet is a dark rust color at the beginning,” she said, adding that even much later the water is orange.
“We have drinking fountains with a high-density filtering system for the students,” Snow said. “It’s not that the water is poisonous, but the mineral content is high. It’s galvanized piping so it’s really ancient.”
The school does not comply with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, she said. Because doors do not open automatically, someone has to open them for children in wheelchairs.
Electricity is another issue, both from an educational standpoint and for safety. Snow said a circuit blows if a fan in the women’s bathroom is turned on while a microwave in the teachers lounge is being used.
There is no wireless Internet capability. Even traditional Internet hookups in some classrooms don’t function properly, preventing teachers from giving assignments on computers.
“In some ways we are still a one-room school house, compared to the modern schools,” Snow said.
Moving two classes into a building next to the middle school has eased crowding, she said. But teachers in the main building still suffer from limitations such as science labs with sinks that don’t work.
“Our staff is so incredible,” Snow said. “They are compassionate to the needs of the kids and they’re so flexible. The teachers do the best with what they have.”
Despite discussions over the years about the middle school problems, Snow said, teachers haven’t been asked for input. The principal hopes they will be asked about their needs and the building’s limitations this time around.
During this week’s advisory committee meeting, committee member Ken Williams urged the group to be sensitive to people’s economic situation. He said one question that must be asked is whether the desired fix is economically viable.
Jim Webster, committee co-chairman and chairman of the school board, assured Williams that issue will be covered.
“A large component of this discussion will be how to pay for it,” Webster said.
Crane presented cost estimates for four options, although committee members are not limited to choosing one of them. According to Crane’s presentation, costs in today’s dollars would be:
• Option A – $8.9 million to remodel the existing school, bringing it up to code compliance and improving the mechanical and electrical systems.
• Option B – $13.9 million to build a new school on the current site’s play field. The costs of demolishing the existing school and replacing the play field are included.
• Option C – $13.8 million to build a new school on an empty site.
• Option D – $16.2 million to build a new school section by section on the current site.
Estimated construction times are 17 months for option A, 21 months for options B and C, and 28 months for option D.
Gene Ciarus, chairman of the Grand County Council is not a member of the advisory committee but attended the meeting. He told members they shouldn’t use the process to validate a decision they’ve already made. “Revenue is scarce,” he said.
Crane replied that no decisions have been made, saying that’s what the committee will be doing in the next couple of months. He emphasized that Monday’s meeting was just an overview to begin the discussion.
After receiving the committee’s recommendation, it will be up to the school board to make a final decision.
Members of the newly formed committee are Crane, Webster, Williams, Snow, Bryon Walston, Dave Bierschied, Elizabeth Tubbs, Dave Tubbs, Donna Metzler, Danette Johnson, Gail Wakefield, Ashley Korenblatt, Sam Crane, Rachel Moody, Melodie McCandless, Steve Lawry, Dwight Johnston, Jeff Whitney, Robert Farnsworth, Kenny Lindsay and Becky McCormick.
Their next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 14, when engineers and architects will make a detailed report on the middle school’s needs in terms of safety, code and learning.