No longer just plans on paper
Center moves to BV; demo work begins inside West


Scenes from the West Center relocation...
ABOVE: District 11 crews were going full tilt this week to turn former center office space at West Middle School into elementary classrooms by August.
BELOW: Movers cart some of the last school items out of Buena Vista's westernmost building May 29, thus making room for the West Center to move in the next day.
Westside Pioneer photos

       “Smooth” may not be quite the right word to describe the West Center's first week at the former Buena Vista school off Bijou and 17th streets, but at least the doors opened as planned June 1 and senior lunches were served on time.
       Meanwhile, the relocation allowed demolition crews from District 11 contractor Colarelli Construction to start this week on the interior of the former center site at the northwest corner of the West Middle School building off Pikes Peak Avenue and 20th Street.
       The center relocation/ school demo work were in keeping with a schedule that was worked out in recent weeks in conjunction with School District 11 giving ownership of Buena Vista to Colorado Springs Parks.
       Mike Maloney of District 11 Facilities said the plan is to have the West remodel work - incorporating an elementary school into the building, plus a playground where the tennis courts are now - complete by Aug. 1 (well before school begins Aug. 18).
       What made the West Center move frustrating was the initial lack of phones and computers. By the afternoon of June 3, West Center Director E.D. Rucker said half of the phone issue had been solved - the staff could call out but the public couldn't call in. But he said he expects most glitches to be resolved soon.
       "It's been a bit of a challenge for us to furnish everything people expect," he said. "Thank goodness we don't have night classes right now. It would have been tough on us to keep that going."
       One center activity that went off without a hitch at the new site was Golden Nutrition's Monday-to-Friday senior lunch program. A turkey a la king meal (price $2, including beverage) was served to about 15 people ages 60 and over at 11:30 a.m. on the first day, June 1, after the program missed (as planned) May 29 because of the move. The lunches are served now in the gym (where students also used to eat). Similar to D-11 schools, the senior meals are prepared at a centralized location, with reheating and extra cooking provided as needed in a small kitchen next to the gym.
       “It went OK,” said Linda Sawyers, the center's senior lunch manager, after the first day, noting that she had not heard of any diners getting lost or being uninformed about the new site. “In another week it will be like old home week.”
       In all, Rucker said, the move required four semi-truckloads, carrying an estimated 250 boxes worth of materials. He credited his staff for “working very hard” at cleaning, unboxing and organizing inside the new space.
       Located in the westernmost of the three buildings at Buena Vista, the new center has three basic entrances:
       - Off Bijou Street, the main entrance, with handicapped access, toward the rear of the building, that goes to the main desk.
       - Also off Bijou, a non-handicapped access closer to the front of the building.
       - Off 17th Street, the at-grade entrance for the Senior Lunch program.
       Operating under the Colorado Springs Parks Department, the center offers a range of programs, classes and excursions for different ages, as well as early-childhood education. A summer brochure, available at the center, lists details.
       Also using space will be the Rock Ledge Ranch Historic Site's volunteer Living History Association (in the west building, at a later date); and the Community Action Agency, which is moving into the east building.
       City Parks took over the Buena Vista property because District 11 no longer needed it; also, the district was required to give the city a comparable site after evicting the center from West Middle School.
       The city is talking to different entities about renting other available space at the Buena Vista site; for example, the middle building is still unrented.
       One issue Rucker was tackling June 3 was furniture. With 13,000 square feet in the west building - about two times as much dedicated space as at the middle school - the new site initially lacked sufficient desks, chairs, couches, cabinets etc. Also lacking a budget to buy furniture, Rucker said he hoped to pick up excess pieces from another city division that's relocating.
       Once the moving pains are over, Rucker hopes to start an outreach to the neighborhood, by sending out a flyer to some 1,500 people living in the West Middle School attendance area and inviting them to an as-yet-unscheduled open house. He agreed with an interviewer's suggestion that some people probably remain unaware that the Buena Vista school has moved out and the center has moved in.
   
Scenes from the West Center relocation...
LEFT: Some of the seniors relax near the end of the first senior lunch at Buena Vista June 1. At far left is lunch manager Linda Sawyers.
RIGHT: With the senior lunches starting June 1, center staffer Karol Szymanski cleans the Buena Vista kitchen May 30.
Westside Pioneer photo


       In the meantime, for those citizens who are curious and don't mind interfacing with center staffers who might still be taking things out of boxes, “they're more than welcome to come by,” he said.
       When the phones are working again, the number is the same as before: 385-7920.

Westside Pioneer article