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El Paso County Colorado District 49

Capital Planning Committee moves forward

The Falcon School District 49ís Capital Planning Committee is moving forward with the next phase of their planning campaign.Gabe Hammel, planning committee member and fifth-grade teacher at Odyssey Elementary school, said the planning committee has three main goals: engage and inform the community to help build a network of support for the campaign; gain community endorsement of the plan and ensure that the plan is enhancing education and exceeding expectations; and, ultimately, have a successful ballot issue for the November election.ìWhat the Capital Planning Committee did was look at the whole concept of how can we do the most with the least,î said Kevin Butcher, board of education treasurer and former Capital Planning Committee member.Based on documents submitted to the D 49 Board of Education at the Jan. 22 work session, the Capital Planning Committeeís campaign currently asks for a $194,729,000 bond and about a $5 million mill levy override.ìOur job (as a committee) is to determine the most important needs of the district and how we can go about fulfilling those needs,î Hammel said. ìWe got it narrowed down to very specific things. We donít want to overburden the taxpayers.îThe two main areas the planning committee has focused on are student safety and student space, Hammel said. ìWeíve looked at what we currently have space-wise and how that can be used to meet the districtís needs,î he said. ìIn the Falcon Zone, there are already over 200 houses approved to be built. With that amount of houses going in, what weíre asking for would fill those new buildings. More houses are going up left and right by Vista Ridge High School. That affects Ridgeview Elementary School, Skyview Middle School and Vista Ridge. Thatís going to add a projected 200 students by the time all those houses are built.îBased on those projections, Hammel said the committee came up with several different remedies to the overcrowding situation. ìWeíre looking at maybe converting a building, like Falcon Elementary School, into a preschool and then building another elementary school,î he said. ìThe current space we have now is not adequate. In the Power Zone, we determined we need another middle school and another elementary school. The best scenario would be a new kindergarten through grade eight school. It might start out as more of a middle school, but it would be flexible to go back and forth with the needs of the zone. We want flexible space, not just one setting. Right now, weíre just focusing on needs.îMelissa Andrews, planning committee member and district planner, said another overcrowding and retention option the committee has looked at is building a charter high school in the Banning Lewis Ranch subdivision. ìThe charter high school is a controversial piece,î she said. ìStatistically, one in four of charter schools fails, and high schools are expensive to run because of the programs. We would put out a request for proposal for a charter to come in, but the district would own the building so that if the charter fails, we can come in and take over the building.îHaving that new charter school would not only ease some of the overcrowding at the districtís other high schools but could help retain some of the almost 2,700 kids that opt to go out of the district after their eighth grade year, Andrews said.Regarding student safety, Hammel said the district would focus on getting secured entrances. ìRight now, all schools have to be accessed with a doorbell, and people have to get buzzed in,î he said. ìPeople can skip going through the front office but a secured entrance would require visitors to go straight to the office. We would have the office area be protected as well.îHammel said other possible uses for money from a mill levy override and a bond measure include improvements to the current technology infrastructure and devices within the district.The committee plans to bring information to several different platforms over the next few weeks leading up to the BOE meeting on May 8 when the committee will present the final proposal to the board, Hammel said. In August, the committee plans to ask the board to vote for the official campaign to have a ballot measure included in the November election, he said.Chuck Irons, BOE director, said that while he appreciates the work the planning committee has done thus far, he couldnít endorse the campaign until he felt the public had more input. ìI want to make sure that when we commit hundreds of millions of dollars to construct new classrooms that thereís going to be people in it,î Irons said. ìI want to hear from the public before I endorse anything.îThe entire Capital Planning Committee campaign can be found on the D 49 website at http://d49.org in the packet for the Jan. 22 BOE work session.The next Capital Planning Committee meeting is April 22 at 4:30 p.m. in the library at Falcon High School.

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