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District 9-R forecasts $80 million in upgrades

December 6, 2001

By Jennifer Reeder
Special to the Herald

Durango School District 9-R schools need improvements that could cost almost $80 million – a figure that voters could see in a November 2002 bond issue.

The renovations are needed to meet the needs of increased programs and growing enrollment, Superintendent Mary Barter said at a meeting Tuesday night.

"With additional space comes additional costs," Barter said.

A district facilities committee, made up of 20 community members and school administrators, evaluated the changing needs of the district schools. Core recommendations included increasing classroom size, adding preschools to all existing elementary schools and expanding Durango High School instead of building another high school.

Representatives from Anderson Mason Dale Architects, of Denver, presented a preliminary cost estimate of $68 million and diagrams for the infrastructure improvements at the Tuesday meeting. If the district opts to install air conditioning in all the buildings – a necessary expenditure if year-round schooling is to be considered in the future – the total cost would be $78 million.

These figures are in addition to the district’s budgeted $125,000 a year for repair items, or $625,000 over five years.

Peggy Kinsey, a senior associate at the architecture firm, said classrooms in district 9-R are much smaller than the ideal size for academic achievement. For example, the ideal high school classroom has 900 square feet; Durango High School’s are only 315 square feet.

"The district is forward-thinking in recognizing that professionals and children can no longer work in classrooms originally intended as storage space," Kinsey said.

There are approximately 5,000 students enrolled in 9-R schools.

Other suggested improvements included:

  •  At Riverview Elementary: adding 24,000 square feet of classroom space, playground improvements, renovating and adding to the music room and renovating the library and kindergarten.

  •  At Needham Elementary: adding 12,500 square feet of classroom space, renovating the computer lab and fixing drainage problems.

  •  At Florida Mesa Elementary: adding 14,750 square feet of classroom space, a 9,580-square-foot gymnasium, and a 5,300-square-foot library; and renovating the building support.

  •  At Animas Valley Elementary: adding a 5,000-square-foot gymnasium and 10,500 square feet of classrooms.

  •  At Fort Lewis Mesa Elementary: adding a 2,150-square-foot cafeteria, a library, a computer lab and a separate exterior entry.

  •  At Sunnyside Elementary: adding a 14,000-square-foot art and reading suite, 9,800 square feet of classrooms, a cafeteria and a library.

  •  At Park Elementary: addressing major overcrowding by adding a 6,000-square-foot gym, 11,300 square feet of classroom space on the second floor, and 2,600 square feet of preschool classrooms.

  •  At Escalante Middle School: adding 10,500 square feet of classrooms, 3,500 square feet to an auxiliary gym and toilets.

  •  At Miller Middle School: separating grades of students by adding 19,000 square feet of classrooms, improving band facilities and completing unfinished locker rooms.

  •  At Durango High School: adding 70,000 square feet of classroom space, a 5,000-square-foot kitchen and a cafeteria and renovating administration offices.

After the meeting, Deborah Uroda, 9-R director of public information, said smaller numbers of students in larger classrooms will help improve student achievement.

"It is mandated that 80 percent of students in Colorado public schools must perform at grade level or above," Uroda said. The goal of the improvements is for 100 percent of district students to perform at or above grade level.

Jim Schneider, a parent of three 9-R students, said the plan is extravagant and should have called for building a second high school instead of spending $21 million to expand the high school.

"We don’t need a Taj Mahal to teach our children," Schneider said. "An $80 million bond issue isn’t going to fly."

Superintendent Barter stressed that plans are extremely preliminary and that community input will shape the decision-making process. B

arter said a final proposal will be presented to the school board by early February, and that the bond issue could be on the November 2002 ballot.

Comments may be sent to or made through the 9-R Web site at

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