Money would mean more space for students |

Money would mean more space for students

Nicole Frey

EAGLE – Spacious hallways, seats for all the kids in the cafeteria, wireless Internet – it’s nothing but a dream for students at Battle Mountain High School. They squeeze past each other between periods, and eat lunch on the stairs or in the front foyer because the cafeteria is already stuffed with bodies. And it’s not just the students who are crowded. Some Battle Mountain teachers don’t even have their own classrooms. They’re forced to load up and move out after each class. Aside from the crowding, Battle Mountain, built in the early 1970s, is technologically outdated, hurting the caliber of science and computer classes, according to district officials, parents and teachers.Edwards and Avon elementary schools are bursting at the seams, too. Eagle Valley High School’s cafeteria is 150 percent over capacity, district staff said. Busses are being parked at drivers’ homes because there isn’t room at district bus lots. The Eagle County Charter Academy in Edwards doesn’t have a gym, or even a permanent building, and the list goes on. The deficiencies are plentiful, but they haven’t gone unnoticed. For the last two years, different groups of parents, school administrators, teachers and other community members have hashed out what should be done about school crowding.After meeting throughout the school year, one committee charged with recommending ways to deal with the district’s growth, presented its findings to the Eagle County School Board. The board then decided to pursue putting a question on the November ballot asking homeowners for money to build new schools and improve existing ones. But it isn’t as simple as slapping a question on the ballot. There’s information to be disseminated, surveys to be administered: How much are the people willing to pony up? And if the district asks for too much, the whole question might be shot down, school board members and staff agreed. But then again, if the district asks for too little, who’s going without? When all the data is gathered and computed, the school board could decide to submit a question to the ballot sometime in August.Investment banker George K. Baum & Co. was enlisted to help answer these questions. Working with the district, the firm started by sending out flyers and an unofficial public opinion survey. They’re currently working on a phone survey that will be given to a few hundred voters who have a record of voting often in the county. Survey results are expected later in the month.

A bond question may include money to fund the following:• A new, 450-child elementary school in Miller Ranch to relieve crowding at Avon and Edwards elementary schools.• Replacing the old and nearly full Battle Mountain High School with a new, larger high school in Miller Ranch to hold 1,000 to 1,200 students.• Improvements to Eagle Valley High School, including expanding the cafeteria, making technological improvements and replacing an aging greenhouse.• New Red Canyon High School, an alternative school, in Miller Ranch to hold 80 students. The current Red Canyon site would be used for the new elementary school• New charter school or charter school gym/commons area.• Improvements in other existing schools, including technological upgrades, replacing the west bus facility, buying land on the west end of the valley for future growth and structural improvements.

The bond will likely be between $100 million and 160 million, costing homeowners in the district between $3 and $5 each month for each $100,000 of their homes’ worth. For example, someone who owns a $500,000 home would pay between $16 and $26 each month.Seniors, who have owned their home for at least 10 years and are 65 or older, will fall under the Senior Property Tax Exemption to be re-instituted in 2007. As a result, property taxes for qualifying seniors will be 50 percent less on the first $200,000 of their homes’ worth.Staff Writer Nicole Frey can be reached at 748-2927 or Vail, Colorado

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