Indian Peaks Charter school want to build a new building
February 16, 2012
For several years, students at the Indian Peaks Charter School have attended classes in modular buildings on East Grand School District land in Granby.
A damaged roof on one of the buildings, crowded spaces and the need for an indoor physical-education space have driven Indian Peaks officials to seek a Colorado Department of Education “Building Excellent Schools Today” grant in order to build a new building on 10 acres that are yet to be identified.
The driving force behind this effort is the school’s former business manager Sandy Pedersen, who has been tirelessly pursuing the application process and attending public meetings to apprise community leaders of the school’s goals.
Pedersen said she is doing so simply because she believes in the school.
The Indian Peaks Charter School, presently with 48 students, was established in 2000 by parents and community members who wanted to provide a five-day school week for their students’ education, with an emphasis in arts and outdoor education and a Core Knowledge curriculum. Written into the school’s charter is the requirement that classroom sizes have a maximum of 15 students per teacher.
The school relies on state funding funneled through the East Grand School District, which serves as the school’s oversight. On days East Grand Schools are in session, transportation is provided to most Indian Peaks students, East Grand plows the school’s parking area, and helps the school by including it in its bulk purchasing of supplies.
Indian Peaks students hail from all areas of Grand County, Kremmling to Winter Park to Grand Lake.
The physical plant
Indian Peaks is like most schools, with walls in classrooms plastered with past projects and posters of inspirational or educational tips. In one classroom a tepee provides students a place to retreat for a quiet read. Desks and tables are arranged for optimum attention to tasks at hand.
The school is welcoming, well-used and encouraging of learning in every corner, but it’s evident its proverbial seams are close to bursting.
“We’re extremely crowded,” said the school’s Business Manager Trista McAdow. “We’re constantly juggling spaces.”
In the main modular acquired four years ago as a temporary fix to the school’s facility needs, very few spaces serve just one purpose.
There is no gymnasium at the school. A carpeted multi-purpose room with a low ceiling serves as the school’s cafeteria and indoor physical education room on cold days. The room can easily exceed capacity during Christmas or spring programs at the school, during which people in attendance must “spill into the hallway” to find space, McAdow said.
Attached to the room is a crowded space that houses cleaning supplies, recyclables and art supplies. There, a table is set up for art projects – a pseudo art room near where the hot and cold tables for daily lunch service are located.
A health room off of the main office doubles as a filing room. The principal’s office has been turned into a special learning classroom.
There are three classrooms in the first modular, one for French classes, one for kindergarten and one for 1st and 2nd grades.
In another modular building, accessed by going outside, two classrooms accommodate 5th- through 8th-graders. A technology lab is set up in a space the size of a closet. Since there is no bathroom in the second building, students must exit the building to access restrooms in one of the two other buildings.
In the third building, again accessed by going outside, two more classroom spaces house 3rd- and 4th-graders. Although the space in the modular is not generous, this building has three bathrooms. The Indian Peaks library is in a storage closet, with many books still in boxes from the last move.
With no gymnasium, physical education teacher Sue Thurston focuses her programs on the outdoors, such as Nordic skiing on the field next door. Near the school’s outdoor playground sits Thurston’s own trailer, which houses the facility’s PE equipment.
The grant process
According to Pedersen, a facility assessment conducted by the Colorado Department of Education in 2009 and revised in April 2011 shows Indian Peaks does not meet current code or guidelines for 15 percent of the physical school campus. The remaining 85 percent of the facility needs replacement “in two to five years.”
It’s for these reasons that Pedersen – aided by the free services of Pedersen Planning Consultants, Alan B. Carter Architects and Big Valley Construction of Granby – is compiling the documents needed for the grant application, due on March 2.
The application includes the request for funding for a new 13,000 square-foot facility, comprising 10 classrooms, a larger multi-purpose room and a health station.
Preliminary estimates for the project, including land acquisition, construction, and design, range from $6 million to $8 million, according to Pedersen.
The “Building Excellent Schools” grant could require a 34 percent match from Indian Peaks, which could amount to $2.75 million if the grant were awarded. Indian Peaks is seeking to waive the 34 percent or a portion of the match, but since a waiver is not guaranteed, Pedersen and other school officials are actively pursuing other grants and support, she said.
Some town officials, especially in Grand Lake, have questioned the timing of this goal, since Grand Lake Elementary School was closed last spring due to drops in enrollment.
At the Grand Lake Board meeting on Feb. 13, Mayor Judy Burke told Pedersen there was a “hesitancy” on the part of the board to offer Indian Peaks its support for the project without further discussion about the matter.
Trustee Elmer Lanzi asked about using the vacated building in Grand Lake.
Pedersen, speaking on behalf of Indian Peaks, said location was a major concern, since students at the school travel from as far as Kremmling and Winter Park. It would be the preference of parents and school officials to remain in the Granby area, she said.
Although there have been informal discussions with district officials about use of that building, East Grand School District Superintendent Nancy Karas said Wednesday there has been no official inquiry from Indian Peaks officials to the district board about the possibility of using the vacant school in Grand Lake.
Mayor Burke also questioned timing, when Indian Peaks’ recent CSAP test results reflected low scores in the 2010-2011 school year. The school’s charter could even come into question if the school continues to post low scores over consecutive years, according to the Colorado Department of Education. In the previous 2009-2010 school year, however, scores at Indian Peaks were high enough to make the “Colorado Governor’s Distinguished Improvement” list, which gauges student growth in achievement.
This shows how just a few students can have a large impact on a small school’s CSAP scores, McAdow said. For example, “one child not showing up” for the test can affect the school’s overall score, she said.
And as far as decreased enrollment, Pedersen hopes a new Indian Peaks facility would attract more families.
“We don’t want to take away from the rest of the school district,” she said. “But we still want to offer that function of five-days-a-week and smaller class sizes.”
Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603