Avon science school to break ground | VailDaily.com

Avon science school to break ground

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the DailyWalking Mountains' new project, which breaks ground today, includes a visitors' center, administrative offices, a community hall and classrooms.

AVON, Colorado -Construction on Avon’s new science school will take a step forward today when workers break ground on the buildings.

Previously called the Gore Range Natural Science School, Walking Mountains plans a roughly $10 million campus north of Nottingham Road. The new campus should open next year, school representatives say.

Workers plan to break ground on most of the proposed buildings this week. They include the “mountain discovery center,” a 6,000-square-foot building with a visitors’ center on the first floor and administrative offices on the second floor. A 2,200-square-foot community hall could host lectures or gatherings. It also divides into two classrooms. Work on both buildings should wrap up in late summer 2011.

Also, Walking Mountains envisions a 1,100-square-foot classroom near a pond and a separate housing complex for teachers, although the completion date for those projects will hinge on funding.

Walking Mountains has already raised $8.8 million for the campus, Doug Dusenberry, a school official heading up the fundraising effort, said. Officials need to raise another $1.3 million to $1.4 million to finish the project, he said.

“The campaign is still active,” Dusenberry said.

Most of the remaining fundraising is for the staff housing, a pair of 2,000-square-foot buildings for the graduate students who teach the science school programs. Currently, Walking Mountains partners with Colorado State University to attract graduate students from all over the country to teach the programs. The 15-month graduate fellowships are highly competitive. Offering housing for the teachers, which the school does not currently do, will allow the school to double the staff to eight educators, school executive director Markian Feduschak said.

Currently, Walking Mountains has an administrative office above Loaded Joe’s in Avon. The school holds programs at various locations throughout Eagle County. With the new, centrally located campus, the school plans to expand its programs. For example, the school plans to double the number of local school-children who participate in multi-day field trips. Currently, 3,000 students take part in those programs.

Situated east of Buck Creek Road and west of Swift Gulch Road, the school will stand on 5 acres surrounded by mountains. Local homeowners Oscar and Argie Tang donated the land, which is worth more than $3 million, Dusenberry said.

Some building experts are hoping the school will be one of the most accessible examples of green architecture in the state.

“It can serve as a demonstration project for other schools and other communities on how to incorporate green building principals,” said Conor Merrigan, program manager for high performance building with the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office.

Located just off Interstate 70, the school is shooting for the highest rating the U.S. Green Building Council offers through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). If the school achieves platinum status, it will be the first school in the state to do so.

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.

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