District officials give cool reception to idea of moving charter school out of Granby | SkyHiNews.com

District officials give cool reception to idea of moving charter school out of Granby

by Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News

Although Indian Peaks Charter School is adamant about wanting to move its facilities to Tabernash, the East Grand Board of Education apparently wants to keep it permanently in Granby.

The issue of where the charter school should be located became the main topic of discussion at a work session held Monday night at the District Office in Granby.

That meeting was originally called to consider the charter school’s request for a portion of the bond premium money resulting from the passage of the East Grand School District’s 3A bond issue in the Nov. 6 election. That bond’s main purpose is to fund $18.25 million in construction projects for Middle Park High School, Granby Elementary and Fraser Valley Elementary that will be built in 2008.

Monday’s work session was called after the school board was presented at its Tuesday, Dec. 4, meeting with a request by Indian Peaks for $450,000 of the expected $722,000 premium to be earned off the sale of the $18.25 million in bonds.

Indian Peaks was not part of the 3A bond issue, but charter school officials said they had “an understanding” with the school board that after the bond passed, the charter school would be allowed to request a portion of the bond premium money.

In presenting the request at the Dec. 4 meeting, Indian Peaks said that $220,000 of the $450,000 would be used to purchase a 1.3-acre site in the Pole Creek Valley subdivision at Tabernash. Another $180,000 would be spent to move the charter school’s two modular classrooms from Granby to Tabernash where they would be placed atop a permanent foundation/lower level that has to be constructed. The remaining $50,000 would be required as a contingency fund to pay for possible cost overruns and other expenses.

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At Monday’s work session, it was clear that while the school board and district administration would seriously considering the request for upgrading Indian Peak’s facilities, they do not support the purchasing of the 1.3-acre site in Tabernash.

Superintendent Robb Rankin opened the discussion by explaining that the wording of the bond issue as required by state statute may not make it possible to give the charter school the funds to purchase the Tabernash acreage. Instead, the district would have purchase and retain ownership of the property.

“I do not believe locating Indian Peaks on the 1.3-acre site is a good move,” Rankin said. He explained that he believes this is so because Tabernash “lacks amenities” such as a library, playgrounds and parks that could backup a school and offer facilities to students as does Granby.

Rankin also argued against the move to Tabernash because he believes there is no compelling need at this time for another school “on that side of Red Dirt Hill.” Instead, he argued that long-term growth in the school district’s enrollment appears to be in the Granby-Hot Sulphur Springs area.

Indian Peaks’ board president Tim Koepke objected to Rankin’s evaluation. He described the charter school’s current location in Granby as a “horrible site” and said Tabernash is “better suited to our needs.”

The charter school’s Principal Polly Gallagher agreed saying that after eight years of existence, the charter school finally needs a real home and it should be in Tabernash.

“Indian Peaks needs a permanent location that’s ours and where we won’t be moved from,” she said.

Gallagher went on the argue that the Fraser Valley is also a major growth area, and Indian Peaks’ enrollment from that area is being limited because parents do not want their children to be bussed to Granby. She said the Tabernash site has been thoroughly researched, and its asking price is “not expensive” for Grand County at this time.

Speaking for the school board members present at Monday’s work session, President Tom Sifers said he believed a “compromise” solution could be reached.

“We agree that Indian Peaks needs better facilities. What we don’t agree on is where you want to locate it,” Sifers told the Indian Peaks representatives.

Sifers said the board believes the charter school should remain in Granby because it is “centrally located.” He said “everybody agrees Indian Peaks is in a miserable situation” with its facilities which are in need of major improvements.

As a compromise, Sifers suggested that Indian Peaks not move to Tabernash, but remain in Granby. He said the charter school’s plans for the construction of a permanent foundation/lower level for its modulars could be done on its current site in Granby.

However, this raised objections from several Indian Peaks teachers and parents who called attention to the site’s windy location atop a ridge.

One charter school parent then surprised those present by claiming the charter school’s modulars are sitting on an old automobile dump which has caused the ground to become polluted with petrochemicals and other toxic waste.

Reacting to this claim, Rankin, Sifers and all the school board members present said this was the first time they had ever heard about this alleged problem. Asking why it had never been raised previously in the two years that Indian Peaks has been on the site, they were told the charter school had not objected because it believed the Granby location was “only temporary.”

To determine if there really is a problem at the site, Rankin said he would direct the Neenan Company, which is the main contractor for the 3A bond projects, to conduct soil testing on the Indian Peaks site as well as those already planned for the three other facilities projects. The results should be available by the end of January.

If the charter school’s current location proves to be unusable, Rankin suggested that other sites on property already owned by the district in Granby could be used as a location for Indian Peaks. One possible site is the 2-1/2 acres of land immediately west of the district’s Transportation Facility.

Further work sessions on the Indian Peaks request will be planned in the future. Sifers indicated that he hoped to see the charter school’s upgraded facilities in place by the start of school next fall.

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