Eagle County Schools breaks ground on modular expansions in Gypsum
The modulars bring eight more classrooms Red Hill and Gypsum Elementary School as enrollment grows
Eagle County Schools and RA Nelson recently broke ground on the sites for four new modular units at Red Hill and Gypsum Elementary Schools. The new construction will bring a much-needed eight classrooms — four at each school — to the downvalley community, which has seen exponential growth in recent years.
“We have a need to increase our capacity downvalley,” said Sandra Farrell, Eagle County Schools’ chief operating officer, at the district’s Board of Education meeting on March 9. “The enrollment has been decreasing at the east end, increasing at the west end, so there is a need to make more capacity and Gypsum Elementary and Red Hill. The big need to do that is because the (enrollment at) grade levels — even in kindergarten and in preschool — is increasing and moving throughout the grades.”
The district contracted with RA Nelson to build two modular units at each school, with each unit adding the ability to serve 66 total students (or 33 students per unit).
Adding this additional capacity was a necessary move ahead of the upcoming school year as the district was facing the possibility of cutting its preschool classrooms in Gypsum.
“In order to adjust the capacity, if we didn’t add classroom space then we would most likely need to remove preschool from those,” Farrell said. “Within Eagle County and the Gypsum/Eagle area, there’s not a lot of options for preschool for students, so this would have not only an impact on the district but within the county.”
Without these modulars, the district wouldn’t be able to house preschool, Farrell later stated, adding that this would have a “huge learning impact and (would) continue to create that education gap as students continue into kindergarten.”
Now, with the new modulars, not only will the district be able to keep the seven preschool classrooms served by Red Hill and Gypsum Elementary, but it will also be able to add an additional preschool classroom.
In addition to maintaining this critical community need, the modulars will help reduce class size and provide space for “much-needed increased student support services,” read a report for the June 11 Board of Education meeting.
At Red Hill, the new classrooms will be home to fifth-grade classes and will serve fourth- and fifth-grade classes at Gypsum Elementary.
Farrell noted in March that these units are considered a “temporary fix until we can move forward with building an early learning center in Gypsum somewhere.”
“However, sometimes modulars don’t go away but the idea is to make them temporary,” Farrell added as a caveat.
The modular units are each 1,640 square feet, measuring 60 feet long by 28 feet wide. Each of the two classrooms within each unit has its own entrance and bathroom, with a shared storage and mechanical room. The interiors will have large sliding white boards, cubbies, storage shelving, and cabinets.
The modular classrooms are scheduled to open for the upcoming school year.
If anything is delayed, Farrell said in June that both schools were working on a “Plan B in order to get us by,” but added that the district was “on track to be able to open them on time.”
The district had previously looked at other options outside of building new modulars for meeting the growing enrollment at the two Gypsum elementary schools — including leasing, renting, or buying used modulars. However, given the urgency of the need, the Board of Education approved the cost of construction back in March.
At the time, the cost per modular was projected at $680,000 per modular, or $2.7 million in total. At the most recent board meeting on June 11, the total budget — which includes site work and construction fees, soft costs, modular costs, and more — for the entire modular project was amended to reach just over $3 million, including a total contingency of just over $200,000.
RA Nelson is serving as the general contractor for the project with TAB Associates serving as the architect, Evolve Structural Design as the structural engineer, Yarnell Consulting & Civil Design as the civil engineer and Peak Land Consultants as the land surveyor.
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.