West Center move seen in June
2010 time frame set aside as District 11 officials recognize need for space, separate PK-5 access
Instead of a year from now, as once proposed, the West Intergenerational Center could move within two months from its longtime home at West Middle School to
the current Buena Vista school site.
A March 1 letter from District 11 to City Parks Director Paul Butcher asks that the relocation occur “approximately June 1, 2009” to allow time for the district to prepare the center's 7,5000 square feet for much-needed school space.
“As you are aware, our Board of Education voted on February 25, 2009, to merge three of our elementary schools in the Old Colorado City neighborhood into West Middle School (West). As a result of this decision, there will no longer be room at West for the West Center,” states the letter signed by John Elliott, D-11's executive director of contracting and procurement, and authorized by Glenn Gustafson, chief financial officer. “It is our goal to give possession but keep the BV facility in service as a community asset, and we believe that moving the West Center to it would do this as well as enable the West Center to thrive and even grow,” the letter adds.
The three elementaries that are set to close after this school year are Buena Vista, Washington and Whittier, which would cumulatively result in about 335 students from preschool through fifth grade going to West in August, in addition to middle school students, Gustafson estimated. The closures are part of the district-wide School Reutilization Plan the board approved Feb. 25.
The 90-day span in the request (March 1 to June 1) is half of the 180-day notice time that was written into the legal agreement between the city and D-11 when they combined to build the center into the northwest corner of West in 1992.
However, “I don't think it [the request] is unreasonable,” Butcher said in an interview. “We have to make room for the students.”
E.D. Rucker, director of the West Center, said he sees several positives in moving to Buena Vista. The buildings themselves “are in good shape,” he said, noting that previous city concerns about facility upgrade needs have mostly been allayed. Also, it's only two blocks away, over four times larger than his current center at 32,000 square feet, and the space would allow more activities and potentially additional entities to “partner” with the center. Another favorable aspect would be the unencumbered use of the space (the center currently controls only its 7,500 square feet, although the agreement lets it use West's facilities when school is out). As for existing West Center programs, they should be able to relocate without much difficulty, Rucker said.
“I really am excited about making it work, not just for us but for our participants,” he summarized. “It could be a good thing.”
Final details of the move still need to be negotiated. In fact, despite amiable feelings on both sides, there is no certainty that it will even happen, cautioned Frank Bernhard, executive director of facilities, operations and transportation. For instance, the '92 contract required that if the district ever made the center move it had to provide “comparable” facilities at the new location. This stipulation could apply to the issue of air conditioning. West Center has A/C, but Buena Vista does not, Bernhard pointed out.
Separate approvals of any deal will be needed from City Council as well as the Board of Education.
“If we can't reach an agreement, we'll have to find another way,” Bernhard said. “I'm not sure how we'd do it. If the center is still there, maybe we could hold some classes at BV.”
Until the Elliott letter was sent, all signs had pointed to the center moving in a more leisurely manner. Draft #18, the last of a series of staff updates on the Reutilization Plan before the school board vote, had contained a schedule showing June 1 as the date, not to move the center, but when “administrative staff begins [a] feasibility study” for doing so. December was when the board would “approve [a] plan for move of Intergenera-tional Center,” and June 2010 was the month of the actual relocation, the draft states.
In the board's Feb. 25 vote, the direction to staff was to “study the feasibility of placing the Intergenera-tional Center in the Buena Vista building and if found to be feasible to develop an agreement between the City of Colorado Springs and District 11 for such a move. The agreement is to be presented to the Board of Education no later than May 2010.”
There has still been no staff statement to the school board, nor discussion among board members, about needing to relocate the center right away.
Yet all along, Bernhard said, he had felt certain that the center had to move this year. In addition to extra space, the school needs the center's 20th Street entrance, well away from that of the middle school on Pikes Peak Avenue. He said this would provide an ideal separation of the elementary and middle school children. This had been a concern of several parents who spoke at public hearings on the plan.
As for Draft #18, it was a “thick document,” including changes at numerous schools, and the writing was done “by committee,” Bernhard said. But the final board- approved language of “no later than May 2010” made it possible to start planning the move much sooner than that. “We weren't intending to surprise or fool anyone,” he said.
Gustafson explained his part of the utilization effort as not being involved in all the planning details but being put in a position to “make it so” once the board takes action. When the board voted in the new West Elementary Feb. 25, “the first thing I said was, 'we've got to get the center out of there to make it work,'” he related.
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