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Charter academy bows out of ballot

Nicole Frey

AVON ” After months of discussion and countless hours in meetings, the Eagle Valley Charter Academy’s board of directors declined to be part of the Eagle County school district’s ballot question.

“There are too many unknowns, and we’re going to move aside,” said Brian Nolan, the charter school’s board president.

The ballot question will ask taxpayers for $128 million in November’s elections to fund school expansions and repairs. The charter school had initially wanted to be included in the bond to get money to build a permanent school building. The school is currently housed in modular buildings.

Determining that a new school building would cost too much and take up too large a portion of the bond, charter school members considering seeking funds for a building in which students, parents and faculty could gather for events like plays or concerts.

The school district continued to whittle down how much the charter school might be able to use ” down to $3 million. That was not enough for a common building.

Eagle County Schools board members then battled over whether to make the charter school, in exchange for the $3 million, move into an existing building, specifically Battle Mountain High School. A big part of the bond could be used to construct a new high school, thus leaving Battle Mountain empty.

Both school boards toiled over making a deal at Battle Mountain work, but the charter school eventually decided it wasn’t worth it.

“After extensive study and due diligence on our part, we are concerned with our ability to remain financially stable in regards to the move to Battle Mountain, and at this time there are too many unknowns, especially in relationship to the use and control of space,” charter school board members said in a letter to the district.

“We hope for our overall community that the bond is passed this fall,” the letter said.

And with that, the dozen charter school parents gathered in the room left.

“I think it showed an excellent faith effort on our part to take it to the last minute,” Superintendent John Brendza said. “I think we did do everything up until now to try to include them without giving away the farm, without tying our hands.”

School board president Scott Green said not having the charter school on the ballot could make the bond question more attractive for downvalley voters.

“It’s been an uphill battle on the west end,” he said. “I’ve gotten some pretty hot phone calls in the last 24 hours. People were pretty upset that Eagle Valley High School’s budget was cut in half but we were offering the charter school money to move into Battle Mountain High School.

“I think this will soften the blow on the west end,” he said.

Board members decided to keep the $3 million in the bond, reallocating it for repairs and upgrading technology. It could also go toward sprucing up Battle Mountain High School “the building must be kept for educational purposes if the district is to keep the land.

Board member Connie Kincaid-Strahan made a last ditch effort to increase the bond amount saying, “If we’re going to the community with a bond this big, I don’t think a little bigger to get everything we need the way we need it is going to tip the scale one way or the other.”

But the board eventually unanimously approved going for $128 million.

The board may have cleared this hurdle, but there’s much work left to be done, said David Cunningham, the owner of Summit Information Services who will help run the campaign to pass the question.

“I cannot tell you what an uphill battle you have,” he said. “It’s going to take many, many, many hours in the evening of burning up your phone lines.”

But an even scarier prospect to the district is the bond not passing at all. “We have no idea how ugly it’s going to get if it doesn’t pass,” Kincaid-Strahan said. “It’s going to be painful.”

The $128 million bond may devote these amounts to the following projects:

– Replacing Battle Mountain High School ” $64.6 million

– New elementary schoo ” $22.1 million

– Repair projects ” $8 million

– Remodeling Eagle Valley High School ” $8 million

– West end land purchase ” $7 million

– Technology upgrades ” $4 million

– Removed from charter school, reallocated to repairs and technology projects ” $3 million

Subtotal ” $116.7 million

Contingency ” $11.67 million

Total ” $128.37 million

*The estimated tax impact on a $500,000 home would be about $165 every year, or $13.75 every month.

Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927 or nfrey@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado


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