New home next door
Ryan Summerlin November 25, 2012
EDWARDS, Colorado – The Eagle County Charter Academy won’t have to move far to get to its new home.
A new 43,000-square-foot building is being built at the school’s Edwards location. It’s scheduled for completion in July.
“Breaking ground on our new facility is the embodiment of the character development we teach. It took hard work, sacrifice, persistence, patience and collaboration to make this happen. It’s important that our students see the order of things – the reward comes after the effort and, in this case, benefits many generations of future students,” Principal Kim Walters said. “Another key trait we teach is gratitude. And I can tell you, these students are excited and thankful for their future home, as am I and the whole staff.”
The new kindergarten through eighth-grade building will include more than 43,000 square feet of space and new athletic and play areas. Construction began in October and is scheduled for completion in the summer.
The Eagle County Charter Academy is now a 293-student, kindergarten through eighth-grade campus on approximately six acres in Edwards.
The new, state-of-the art building will feature 20 classrooms in all, a gymnasium, cafeteria, music stage, art room, reading rooms, library and computer and science labs.
High-efficiency lighting, mechanical systems, ventilation systems and plumbing systems are designed to cut energy costs 34 percent compared with traditional alternatives.
The two-story design is perched atop a knoll that provides views of the Beaver Creek ski area.
The school has been in what may be the world’s most permanent temporary buildings. It’s now in its 17th year, and it’s been in modulars since it moved to its current site after launching in a church basement.
The students know what a big deal it is, Walter said.
“True enough, those kids were all over the golden shovels, posing and tossing dirt and donning the construction hats – they understand that this is a big deal for them,” Walter said.
The Eagle County Charter Academy picked the two Front Range firms handling the project.
Deborah Warren served on the grant committee for a long, long time because it takes a long time to talk someone into granting you more than $9 million. This grant came from the Colorado Department of Education’s fund called Building Excellent Schools Today.
Eagle County Charter Academy sat down with the Colorado Department of Education powers that be and asked them what a successful grant application would entail. The list was longer than the faults your mother-in-law finds in you around the Thanksgiving Day table.
At first, they thought about a common building, somewhere the entire school could gather. They could do that now, but the spaces are so small it would violate most of the fire codes.
So at the Colorado Department of Education’s urging, they decided to try for a new school grant.
The criteria is based on the relative wealth of the school district, and the Eagle County School District is relatively wealthy. The Eagle County Charter Academy crew put together a letter asking for a waiver from that criteria and documenting all the things they had done to try to get a permanent home. That letter was 64 pages.
People get pretty competitive around large piles of money and the first time Eagle County Charter Academy applied for a new school grant, it was ousted by other proposals. The second time, last year, it got it.
Usually, a group of experts puts together these grant proposals. Eagle County Charter Academy did it with a group of parent volunteers, although it featured architects and attorneys.
Then they had to wait around for the school board to decide whether it was going to close any buildings to save money, which it didn’t.
Then they had to do everything by state government guidelines – asking for proposals, studying bids and selecting contractors – a process that moves at the speed of government.
Since the school launched 17 years ago, the Eagle County Charter Academy crew had been stacking up its pennies and dimes until it had $937,679 to put toward the project.
“It’s been years in the making with lots and lots of people involved for the stars to align,” Warren said.
Pete Incitti, of Larson Incitti Architects, designed the school, and JHL Constructors is building the school.
At a groundbreaking ceremony attended by parents and school board members, Incitti presented the exterior and interior elevations, while Sam Schupbach, of JHL, presented the construction plan and explained how it won’t interfere with school during school days.
At the ribbon cutting, JHL spent about half of its presentation time inviting local tradesmen, skilled labor and unskilled labor to join its team, also asking those in attendance to spread the word. JHL held on-site interviewing in the days before activity started.
In 2009, the Eagle County school board approved $2 million for the new charter school building. The Charter Academy raised $937,679.
State taxpayers are picking up the rest of the tab with a $9,302,653 grant from the Colorado Department of Education.
That makes the building’s total price tag $12,240,332.
The project was one of 29 approved by the state Department of Education in August 2011 and funded in December 2011.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.