OCC Historical Society urges District 11 not to demolish West Junior
The roughly 300-member society's concern stems from wording in the proposed School District 11 bond issue - ballot question 3C in the Nov. 8 general election. Its approval would include a $17 million expense to either replace or renovate the West building, which has been shared since 2009 by West Middle and Elementary schools (grades K-8).
An e-mail by the OCCHS Board of Directors to D-11 spokesperson Devra Ashby urges the district not to follow the bad example of the “marvelous” Burns Opera House/Chief Theatre, built in 1912, which Colorado Springs demolished in 1973.
“The city decided to tear down the Burns Opera House/Chief Theatre because it was not needed or in good shape,” states the e-mail, written by OCCHS member and former president Sharon Swint, on behalf of the board. “The marvelous building took four days to level and is now a parking lot. Residents have regretted it ever since. This was not progress or city beautification. It [was] just a mistake. Don't let this happen to West Junior High. It has a long history, architectural beauty, character and so much more. It says, 'Historic Westside.'”
Swint's e-mail adds that the board's position is based on its “mission statement that includes preserving the history of our unique neighborhood.”
Ashby responded to Swint with an e-mail thanking her for the society's communication. “I will pass along your email to the Colorado Springs School District 11 superintendent as he works with the Board of Education to plan for the future of our district and schools,” Ashby wrote.
Originally built in 1924 as West Junior High, the building has a number of problems, including its concrete, electrical power, plumbing, heating and floors, district studies have revealed. It also lacks air conditioning.
In a previous interview, Ashby told the Westside Pioneer that if the bond issue passes, the district would hold a "number of public meetings" before deciding how to redevelop the “West Campus” (as the district currently describes the 6.5-acre property).
Overall, the bond issue ballot question asks voters in D-11 to increase district debt $235 million to cover various building needs, with the deb to covered by a property tax increase that would be paid off over the next 25 years, district officials have said.
For the original Pioneer article about the bond issue, as well as a second D-11 ballot question (3D, seeking a mill-levy override), go to this link.
Westside Pioneer article