Architects, Public Discuss School’s Configuration, Design

Lake City community members filled Lake City Community School’s commons area Tuesday evening, September 18, joining school board and faculty at the first community input meeting to discuss details of the proposed new school facility.
RTA architect Brian Calhoun brought his team from Colorado Springs for a lengthy strategy session with Lake City Community School faculty members on Monday, September 17, regarding teacher and administration needs in the enlarged and revamped facility.
Tuesday evening, with a turnout of about 20 local residents, was the first opportunity for parents and other interested community participants to view preliminary plans and see what functional options were put forth by staff and faculty at the previous meeting.
School Board President Phil Virden welcomed attendees and gave a brief historic, process overview of the new facility research. Begun in 2015, planning for a school renovation has germinated, developed and moved through the application process for the highly competitive BEST grant awarded to Lake City Community School in May of 2018.
Virden noted that the proposed renovation and school expansion is estimated to cost nearly $13.5- million. The highly competitive BEST grant award was for $9,443,483 and the reduced community match for just over $3.9 million is subject to approval in the upcoming November 6 election. He emphasized that if the bond is not passed, Lake City Community School forfeits those grant dollars.
Brian Calhoun, returning with his now familiar power point presentation, provided a look back at progress to date. He noted that building codes have changed since the current school was built in the 1980s. Proceeding with his presentation, he guided audience members through the preliminary conceptual plans and then into the more detailed, practical planning proposed by faculty members from the previous day’s idea exchanges.
The architect noted that critical needs analysis had driven the project and won the BEST grant for the Hinsdale County school system. Citing health, safety and security, Calhoun illustrated the advantages of updating HVAC systems. Also high on the list was the objective of moving the pre-school classrooms from the Wee Care Building to Lake City Community School, adding a commercial kitchen and enlarging the science lab and classrooms.
He highlighted creative uses of space, relocating and enlarging administrative spaces to include a nurse’s station, and counselor’s office, as well as private consultation room.
A large component of the project is the addition of a new, regulation-sized gymnasium. By promoting flexible, dual or triple use spaces for nearly every aspect of the build, Calhoun captured the audience’s imagination with his plans for efficiency and expanded learning possibilities.
Anna Spitzer, the BEST coordinator walking Hinsdale County School District through the labyrinth of paperwork and process for the past several years, was introduced and in her talking points noted that “Lake City is at risk of not getting the grant in the future if this fails in the election.”
She explained that the Colorado Department of Education has a dwindling source of funding for future State Department of Education BEST grants.
Calhoun reviewed the timeline moving from the conceptual design to actual plans. In the months following a successful bond election, he stated design development would be formalized and construction documents completed. March, 2019, marks the window for identifying a general contractor for the multi-million dollar project, seeking permits and bidding for sub-contractors in the building and renovation process.
Construction is expected to begin when school lets out in June, 2019, and completion is expected when Lake City Community School students return to campus in the fall of 2020.
Seeking to keep the build appropriate within the Lake City Historic District, the architect noted, “We want something that feels like it belongs in a residential, historic neighborhood.”
He noted that the school, which is currently 14,000 square feet, “must be — has to be — one of the smallest schools in Colorado.” The new footprint will more than double the square footage to 30,000 square feet. “We are looking for a building that will last and, with enough space, will support curriculum and educational function.”
Five floor plan options were proffered by the staff in the Monday planning session and presented by Calhoun. These suggested variations on a theme nuanced the original conceptual plan and shifted the gymnasium into different configurations, as well as moved library, kitchen and administration spaces.
Various options also shuffled playground and storage options, along with interior courtyard space. Audience members offered their opinions on the positives and negatives of the differing plans.
Participants agreed that it was important to have daylight in all the rooms, and that snow issues could result from an interior courtyard option. Everyone concurred that keeping career tech and science rooms was wise, as was the prospect of keeping the playground as large as possible. Amanda Hartman noted, “Our kids love to go out and really look forward to recess times no matter what the weather or temperatures.”
“They are not timid,” Hartman said, “I hope we preserve all the outside space possible.”
The next in the series of community input meetings is slated for 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, October 2, and another following on October 16, to give Lake City ample opportunity to ask questions and become acquainted with the planning and process ahead of the quickly approaching November ballot initiative.