BEST grant could be ‘game changer’ for Hayden
What is a BEST grant?
The BEST grant program, run by the Colorado Department of Education, was established by the state legislature in 2008 to fund a competitive grant program for schools and board of cooperative educational services to either renovate existing school facilities or to build new schools. The BEST program is funded with revenue from the School Trust Lands, additional State Lottery revenues and marijuana excise taxes.
Steamboat schools get their own BEST grant
In addition to the nearly $40 million BEST Grant awarded to the Hayden School District, Steamboat Springs School District landed a $537,491 BEST grant of its own, which will be used to defray the estimated $2.9 million cost of replacing the roofs on five district buildings, three of them schools.
“Getting the BEST grant is really outstanding for the district,” School Superintendent Brad Meeks said.
As replacing old roofs always involves a little bit of the unknown, the BEST grant gives the school district some assurance that any costly surprises won’t eat into the budgets of other projects taking place this summer, including new heating and air conditioning systems at the middle school and a refurbished Gardner Athletic Field at the high school.
“It gives us a little bit of a contingency,” Meeks said. “As those projects unfold, we’ll see where we’re at. We’re almost done at the transportation center, and there have been no surprises, but it’s nice going into summer knowing we have some BEST money to make sure.”
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Hayden School Board member Medora Fralick characterized the $38.8 million state grant awarded to the school district May 18, which will support construction of a new public school campus, as having the potential to transform the West Routt community of about 1,800 people, 24 miles west of Steamboat.
“It’s an absolute game changer for the community in so many respects,” Fralick said. “In any community, the schools are the primary economic driver, period. Businesses need that because the more families that move in, the more we can support the businesses. I absolutely believe we’ll attract more young families than we’re already bringing into Hayden.”
The BEST grant awarded to Hayden will go toward a new $61 million school building on the campus of the current elementary school, not far from the Routt County fairgrounds at 300 Breeze Basin.
School officials told voters in 2017 that if a $22.3 million bond issue needed to help secure the grant was approved, it would allow the community to replace aging, and in some instances, mechanically failing school buildings for 33 cents on the dollar. The fact that the current combined middle and high school have 19 different exterior entrances makes school security troubling.
School district voters approved the bond issue, along with a property tax debt to back it up, by a slim margin of two votes last fall. Now, Hayden school officials are wasting no time taking steps that are precursors to launching construction of the new preschool-through-12th-grade campus.
Hayden Superintendent Christy Sinner said school officials and their consultants would be conducting a walk-through with prospective engineering and architectural firms Tuesday.
“The building is scheduled to open in the fall of 2020, so it’s a very condensed (timeframe),” Sinner said. “It’s definitely time to get going.”
She said the district leaders are hopeful they can break ground on the project in spring 2019, beginning with some remodeling of the existing elementary school. It will be incorporated into a larger building including both the middle and high schools in their own pods of classrooms.
The Hayden School District is using NV5, the same consulting group that the Steamboat Springs School District is using for its facility upgrades, for construction management.
Sinner said her school board planned in advance, with the expectation of receiving the BEST grant, in order to be able to act almost immediately on the opportunity. She added the district is aware that the cost of construction is increasing significantly on an annual basis; however, school officials are confident they will be able to afford to build what is shown on their conceptual drawings.
“When they put that master plan together, we had agencies we were working with to make sure (funding) was adequate with a contingency fund,” to account for the escalating cost to build, Sinner said.
The concept for the new building is to create a neighborhood school comprising connected “neighborhoods” for each of the elementary, middle school and high school populations. That implies that older students will be on the same campus as the youngest students in the district, giving them the opportunity to mentor younger students.
“It will make a huge difference as far as us being able to use the entire facility effectively,” she said.
And it is hoped that the new schools will be better used by the broader population.
“In the bigger picture,” Sinner said, “it would give everyone something to be proud of. We want the schools to be the hub of the community.”
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