Eagle Valley high to get new look
GYPSUM ” Since first opening its doors in 1960, Eagle Valley High School has anchored the intersection of Valley Road and U.S. Highway 6. But that very familiar building will soon be sporting a very different look.
A remodel of the high school was one of the headline projects promised by the Eagle County School District as part of last fall’s successful $128 million bond election. At that time, the work was tagged as an $8 million facelift. That amount has since grown to $14 million and it may grow even higher if the district sees cost savings from other planned construction projects.
What will taxpayers get for that money? Dianna Scott, facilities manager for the school district, the remodel is planned with a central goal: to enhance the learning experience for students.
That goal has translated into a new commons/entry area, auditorium, performing and visual arts spaces and technology wing. There’s also going to be some additional community space. And, if additional dollars come to the school building fund, the high school may get a second gymnasium, new locker rooms and other amenities.
The centerpiece of the remodel is the new student commons. The area will replace the cramped space that currently serves as a lunchroom and entryway for the gym and auditorium.
Scott notes that the space was originally designed when the high school had about 250 students. The school now has more than 650 students, and lunchtime finds students packed into a space that is obviously too small.
The remodel plan includes tearing down the auditorium and offices on the eastern side of the building to accommodate the new commons. The lofted entry will provide a spacious new area with lots of natural light flowing into the building.
“Its really about creating a difference experience for the kids at Eagle Valley High School,” said Scott.
The new commons will likely feature a food court atmosphere now in vogue at schools across the country. Inspired by shopping mall dining, school food courts give vendors kiosk space to sell lunch options. Scott said that by making the commons more appealing, kids will have more incentive to hang out at school.
Beyond the new commons/entryway and the new auditorium, the design is still evolving. The school board opted to proceed with architectural design for a comprehensive remodel and expansion, knowing that not all of that work can be financed with the current bond proceeds.
But redesigning the project in a piecemeal basis wouldn’t serve the school or the community well in the long run, Scott said.
“We are being prudent by planning for stages that may later be constructed,” she explained.
A 25-member design advisory group has worked with the school architect to identify priority projects. That list is still evolving, but renovations may begin as early as this summer with the district removing two houses it owns on Valley Road, currently used as teacher housing, to expand the school.
“We are going to utilize the site much better,” she promised.
Scott Green, president of the Eagle County board of education, reiterated that idea during a discussion with members of the Gypsum Town Council last week. He said the redesign will likely ease traffic by adding parking in the back of the school building, and providing access to the school off Valley Road instead of crowded Highway 6.
“Throughout this process, we have tried to look at how we can add to the school and not add to traffic issues,” said Green.
Green said the district is looking for partners to improve traffic circulation around the school and asked Gypsum officials to consider helping to fund the project. And he noted, the newly remodeled high school building will be an asset to the community.
“Eagle Valley is a flagship down here,” he concluded.