Community Voices: School partial demolition alternative

Column by Mike Caistor
Posted 4/19/22

The new Clear Creek Elementary School will be built at the 83,000 square foot Old Middle School on Highway 103 but only about half (approx.. 40,000 square feet) of it will be needed for only around 100 students at the new school.

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Community Voices: School partial demolition alternative

Posted

The new Clear Creek Elementary School will be built at the 83,000 square foot Old Middle School on Highway 103 but only about half (approx.. 40,000 square feet) of it will be needed for only around 100 students at the new school. The question is what to do with the other half? The challenge is what best fits in a building next to a school that has half the amount of windows of a regular building because half of it is built into the steep hill as well as limited parking. So far, the school does not have many real uses to take most of the space. 

I have written before about a new cultural center, which could also become a new visitor center, which is a better location right off the I-70 downtown interchange for visitors than the current Visitor Center in the middle of town with more possibilities. 

This could be enabled by selling the senior center downtown to get a newer, bigger and better building next to Clear Creek across from the park. The objection may be bringing the public near the school, although it could be separated with architectural and site design methods. However, no matter what you do adequately utilizing the other half will involve the public one way or another. 

I also wrote to some extent about the partial demolition of the multi story half of the old middle school building and keeping the single story half if not enough use could be found for the other half. Of course, the school could  just waste the space with a few programs that don’t fully utilize the space but that would be a disservice to the taxpayers that approved the school bond. It will take citizen involvement to make them care enough about the taxpayers. Partial demolition would save several million dollars that could be used for other priorities in the school district . I discussed the idea of putting family oriented housing on the north side of the property which would utilize the parking area that keeping the other half would need. That parking area could also be used for playfields particularly since the Bus Barn to be put on top of the upper level track area will consume space that could have been playfields. The parking also has value for the new Virginia Canyon bike park as it is near the Greenway and only a few minutes from that venue at the Argo development as well as the new skateboard park. 

Attached is a drawing I did of the Partial Demolition Alternative with about 10,000 square feet of new space added to the remaining about 40,000 square foot single story area with the new classroom wing in place of where the demolished multi story half would have been. This new architecture provides a new face to the old middle school, which has some architectural merit and Frank Lloyd Wright disciple architect history, but there are some people in town who see it as a kind of an ugly duckling. The design also has a new roundabout drop off pick up entry. So the idea of partial demolition isn’t just an amputation, it is an improvement that also saves money if done right. 

The most important reason for these alternatives is for the Clear Creek Community to get involved in the design process. Frankly, the school board has not been too transparent during the bond issue and I have no reason to believe it will be going forward without some citizen prodding. I don’t think we should rely on their design and other committees that will probably be hand picked to suit the school board’s agenda rather than honest and objective input from the public. There should a town meeting at the Carlson School Gymnasium where there can be public input. One of the reasons I write these Voice articles is so alternative input cannot be censored, which I experienced before during the school bond vote which lacked transparency. So please, get involved!

Mike Caistor, Idaho Springs

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