The East Grand School District (EGSD) is developing a new $60 million dollar Master Plan that will need voter approval in 2020.
Rapidly growing districts push bond issues “every 4-6 years” according to Frank Reeves, (EGSD) Superintendent of Schools. “The Master Plan is just the beginning, we want to develop a comprehensive plan so we can meet the needs of our district.”
The EGSD board hired a demographic firm and an architectural firm to assist with the planning process. A master plan presentation by Hord Coplan Macht of Denver, an integrated firm offering planning and architecture services, will be held Tuesday May 21st in the District office.
Reeves said, “We have some immediate health, wellness and safety issues throughout the district and the Fraser and Granby Elementary schools are on the top of the list for renovations, improvements and/or replacement.”
The Granby Elementary school has parts that are 70 years old and the facility has reached capacity. Reeves said, “Granby Elementary is bulging at the seams”, adding, “we need to find the funding to address those needs and the state offers some relief through a grant application process”. The BEST Grant is part of the Colorado Department of Education funding mechanism established in 2008 with the signing of C.R.S.22-43.7, BEST provides an annual amount of funding in the form of competitive grants to school districts, charter schools, institute charter schools, boards of cooperative educational services, and the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. BEST funds can be used for the construction of new schools as well as general construction and renovation of existing school facility systems and structures. One of the requirements of the grant application process is having a Master Plan in place.
The EGSD BEST grant application identifies immediate needs and safety issues that approach $9 million dollars. The matching grant funds are calculated as a percentage of property values in the district. That factor for our community is 27 cents on the dollar, which equates to about $5.6 million the taxpayers of EGSD would need to approve in a 2020 vote.
The school district is also facing new challenges with a growth model that is hard to predict. Reeves said, “There is no other district like ours, we don’t have a population center. That makes forecasting a long range plan difficult”. According to Reeves, middle schools typically dictate expansion. The East Grand Middle School has a capacity of 500 kids and is currently at about 75% of capacity. “When we reach the capacity threshold of our middle school, we will need to look at expanding into the Fraser Valley.”
The EGSD Board appointed a steering committee in November of 2018 to discuss the needs of the district and also hired a firm out of Boulder to do a demographic study, but some community members believe the steering committee and demographer report were not a thorough representation of the development taking place and population growth expectations on the east end.
Philip Vandernail, Mayor of Fraser, said,”The demographer report has several large holes. There were complete developments that were not accounted for in the report. When you develop a Master Plan, you should pull together as much information as possible and look 10-12 years down the road and get out ahead of it”. Vandernail believes the district is not looking at the big picture. “We need to be proactive and not reactive.” He added, “How did the EGSD get so far behind that it needs to ask the voters for $60 million dollars?”.
The ESGD School Board hired a demographer to study the community and solicit a report to satisfy the needs of a BEST Grant application, but the report was obviously missing data. One glaring error in the report analysis lead to the statement, “The Fraser Valley will see 1% student population growth in the next 5 years”, completely contradicting state demography findings and county building department records.
The county assessor reports show the Fraser Valley outpacing the rest of the school district 2.6 to 1 in the last 15 years. In a two year period from 2017 through 2018, the Fraser Valley built 268 homes and Granby built 57 over the same period.
Although there is little evidence to show the family occupancy of the homes being built, the east end of the EGSD carries 51% of the vote, which will have an affect. Grand Lake voters may not support a bond measure, since the district elected to close their elementary school amidst budget shortfalls in 2011. Mayor Vandernail said, “It seems like the EGSD is developing a building plan, not a master plan. I think it is important that accurate information is brought to the table before the EGSD goes for a vote. Where will we be if it doesn’t pass?”.
Phil Brooks, EGSD Board member said, “I am really proud of our school district. My oath is to take action for the entire school district”. Brooks said that he is in favor of taking a step back and investing in a comprehensive demography report. “We need a bullet proof decision on this one.”
Superintendent Reeves said a complete demographic study would cost the district about $4500, and the discussion will be on the table at Tuesday’s meeting. Brooks said, “I am 1 of 6 board members, but am in favor of investing in the study. It makes sense to get the right information in our hands so we can make the best decisions possible”.
Clark Lipscomb, parent and long-time advocate for a K-12 school system in Fraser/Winter Park said, “I would like to see a comprehensive demographic study with accurate data, and don’t think investments of this scale should be based upon a poorly developed report full of misinformation. I also think it is important to form small work groups from each community that help to shape the education wants and needs for each community and report back to the EGSD board. We need to gather as much information as possible so a long term plan that meets the needs of each community and respects the taxpayers is developed. One that is forward thinking and not reactionary.”
The EGSD Board will meet Tuesday, May 21 at 6 pm at the District Office in Granby.