Montezuma-Cortez School District Re-1 is in the initial stages of discussions with a number of property owners, including the city of Cortez, regarding the acquisition of property for new school buildings.
The discussions are part of the districts efforts to address more than $70 million worth of deficiencies in facilities identified by three independent studies. On Feb. 15, the Re-1 board of education approved an $80 million facility master plan that would provide the district with a new high school, two new elementary schools and renovations, repairs and upgrades at Pleasant View Elementary School and Cortez Middle School.
While the district intends to construct a new school building on the current Mesa Elementary School site, new property would be required for a high school facility and a facility to replace Kemper Elementary School. The current Kemper site is considered too small to accommodate a new building and 600 students.
The district has initiated a conversation with the city regarding property located at the intersection of Empire Street and Mildred Road, across the street from the county courthouse and city police complex. The property is being considered for construction of an elementary school to replace Kemper.
Ive initiated a letter to the city to ask that we have those conversations, said Michael Canzona, RE-1 chief of operations. They are willing to entertain some conversations about that property and want us to formulate a proposal.
Key to the discussions is the idea of a land swap, with the district trading vacated space for the proposed site. Along with building new facilities, the district would vacate facilities at Montezuma-Cortez High School, Manaugh Elementary School, Beech Street Kindergarten, Lakeview Elementary School and Downey Elementary School.
The city council is favorable to the discussion, according to City Manager Jay Harrington.
Weve asked the school district to form a proposal of what they would look at to trade us for that property, Harrington said. We have a desire to work with the district on facility planning, and we have an interest in their planning because we are interested in what happens on vacated sites and what it means to a neighborhood.
Canzona said the district is aware of the impact vacated school facilities might have on the community.
There are so many variables, Canzona said. We have a number of properties we will be vacating, and we want to look at the configuration of community-based needs. I think we want to look at what is in the best interest of the public for any given piece of property. We want to look at a central framework for public use.
In addition to discussions with the city, Canzona is working with a Realtor to identify potential sites for the construction of a new high school.
Canzona declined to give specific locations but said the district is looking at 40-acre parcels both within Cortez and outside city limits.
We are identifying some beautiful opportunities he said. There is some really exciting stuff around a few possibilities.
Among the considerations playing into site location are access, aesthetics and infrastructure, Canzona said.
We are looking at efficiency and operations, he said. Water is a big deal as well as the ability of the site to accommodate volumes of people. We are also looking at the security ramifications of any site.
Though the district is moving forward with property considerations, the commencement of the facility master plan hinges on the availability of financing. The board voted Feb. 15 to apply for a $37 million grant from the Colorado Department of Educations Building Excellent Schools Today program. The BEST program is a matching program and would rely on a community-supported bond of $42.5 million.
BEST grants will not be awarded until July or August, and the board has not decided whether or not to add a bond issue to the November ballot. The uncertainty in financing complicates the property search, Canzona said.
It certainly doesnt make it easier, he said. But we want to be sure we do our due diligence in advance of decision time to make sure it is right.
Canzona hopes to present property options to the Re-1 board at the April 5 board meeting.
Reach Kimberly Benedict at [email protected]