When students return to Ponderosa High School Aug. 7, they will be in for quite a shock, Principal Tim Ottmann said. The 25-year-old carpet in classrooms — once a rusted orange color, stained and …
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When students return to Ponderosa High School Aug. 7, they will be in for quite a shock, Principal Tim Ottmann said.
The 25-year-old carpet in classrooms — once a rusted orange color, stained and weathered from years of use — will be replaced with new gray carpet, as will scratched and worn tile throughout the building.
“It's been a long time coming,” Ottmann said, sitting in his office in May, days before graduation. “I'm excited to see the pride.”
The $1.8 million flooring project is made possible by Ballot Measure 5B, a $250 million bond passed by Douglas County voters in November. Also approved was Ballot Measure 5A, a $40 million mill levy override that has gone toward increasing teacher pay, the hiring of 80 additional counselors and school programming.
The money is helping a school district that has struggled with funding for the past 12 years play catch-up, district leaders say.
“Thank you to the community because without 5A and 5B, this conversation would look incredibly different,” Scott Smith, the district's chief financial officer, said at a June 4 board meeting, when funding was discussed. “If there is no funding there to meet those needs, it's very difficult to accomplish those goals.”
In the 1980s and 1990s, Douglas County taxpayers approved several local bond measures. The funds were used to build new schools as the county's population grew. The last time the county passed a local bond was in 2006 — when the school district's newest graduates were in kindergarten. Bond measures were brought before Douglas County voters in 2008 and 2011, but voters rejected them.
The bond is going toward urgent building needs, new construction, transportation, career technical education and security, a component deemed critical by community members following the May 7 school shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch. One student was killed and eight others were injured.
As of May, the district had spent $4 million of the bond on construction and another $4 million on building reinvestments, such as playgrounds and transportation, according to district staff.
Allocation of bond funds
Over the next five years, the district estimates that it needs between $152 million and $200 million to address all Tier 1 items, which the bond will go toward, according to an executive summary of the 2018-19 Master Capital Plan.
Tier 1 items are building components that compromise school safety and risk school closure, such as a roof, fire alarm system, heating and cooling system, or generator.
Of the $250 million bond, $52 million to $67 million is allocated for Tier 1 and additional high-priority Tier 2 needs, which are critical building items that affect school programming, such as plumbing fixtures and high school athletic fields.
Facility reinvestments account for $83 million to $118 million, and $20 million is going toward technology needs, according to district documents.
Transportation needs account for $10 million, and $15 million is allocated for physical safety measures, including radio communications and cameras.
As of May, 25 schools were scheduled to receive Tier 1 improvements, according to district documents.
At the start of the 2019-20 school year, six of those will see changes in building automation systems, which control heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) and lighting. The goal is to increase comfort levels for students and staff and save energy, according to Eric McCain, the district's project manager in construction.
Improvements to control systems at Ranch View Middle School in Highlands Ranch, Sagewood Middle School in Parker, Eldorado Elementary School in Highlands Ranch and Prairie Crossing Elementary School in Parker were underway at the end of the 2018-19 school year.
Next up this summer are Acres Green Elementary in unincorporated Douglas County and Legacy Point Elementary School in Parker.
The systems, McCain said, are simply outdated. The average age of the district's neighborhood, magnet and alternative schools is 23 years, according to district staff.
“Compare it to a flip phone versus the current smartphone,” McCain said. “That's what we are working with in a lot of these schools, just because of the age of them.”
Costs associated with control systems replacements range from $300,000 at the elementary school level to $800,000 at the high school level, according to the district.
At some schools, such as Ponderosa High School, the improvements underway are more “glamorous,” Ottmann said.
This summer, while students and staff are out of the building, the main focus is flooring. The cracked concrete leading up to the entrance will be replaced, as will tile in the commons. Almost all other flooring in classrooms and hallways will be replaced with carpet, which will have a 20-year warranty, Ottmann said.
“It will be more quiet,” he said, “but also more challenging to keep clean.”
Ponderosa — the district's second oldest high school behind Douglas County — is slated to receive $7.3 million of the bond, which will also go toward replacing the school's 35-year-old boiler, air handlers and control systems — projects that are next on the list, Ottmann said.
Also in Parker, Legend High School's turf field was long overdue for a replacement. More than 10 years old and past its lifespan, the field was becoming a safety hazard for students, according to Principal Jason Jacob.
Students from Legend and Cimarron Middle School, who utilize the field most nights until 8 p.m., were susceptible to concussions and ankle injuries due to the ripped and matted material, Jacob said.
“It's just time,” he said.
The bond covered $441,500 to install the new turf field, and a donor funded $18,500 to color the field royal blue, with orange end zones. A community survey revealed that 85 percent of Legend families were in favor of using the school's colors, Jacob said. The colored turf field is a first for the district.
Community members can expect to see some larger projects take form later this year, district documents show.
At the top of the list for new construction is a 25,000-square-foot addition to Castle View High School in Castle Rock, which is over capacity by more than 360 students. The school utilizes eight mobiles, or outdoor structures, with two classrooms each.
The $13.2 million project is expected to begin this December and complete by December 2020, according to district documents.
Schools including ThunderRidge High School in Highlands Ranch, South Ridge Elementary in Castle Rock and Iron Horse Elementary in Parker are scheduled to receive roof repairs, along with control system improvements.
Funds from the bond, McCain said, are helping solve the district's ongoing struggle of repairing needs with temporary fixes.
“Thank you to voters for passing the bond, because it's much needed,” McCain said. “We were limping along here for so long, just doing Band-Aid fixes.”
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