‘You want a building to be cared for’

Posted 10/9/18

When a prospective parent walks in the front door of Ranch View Middle School in Highlands Ranch, he or she may see the 22-year-old carpet, chipped tile and cracks in the wall. If that parent isn’t …

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‘You want a building to be cared for’

Posted

When a prospective parent walks in the front door of Ranch View Middle School in Highlands Ranch, he or she may see the 22-year-old carpet, chipped tile and cracks in the wall. If that parent isn’t pleased with the looks of the school, his or her child may end up at a different school.

If the school’s enrollment drops, jobs are cut. In the past three years, seven teachers have been let go precisely because of that reason, according to school officials.

“When you have a strong climate and culture, you have strong collegiality,” said Tanner Fitch, the school’s principal. “When your colleagues are forced to leave — you have to do a lot of healing in the wake of that.”

Like Fitch, principals of neighborhood schools in Highlands Ranch are feeling the impact of unmet capital needs.

Highlands Ranch is home to four of Douglas County School District’s largest high schools, four middle schools and 21 elementary schools. The majority of buildings were constructed in the 1980s and 1990s. The lifecycle of most components within a school building is 20 years.

Fitch and principals of two elementary schools in the area said they are frustrated, embarrassed, leery.

A crack in a sidewalk isn’t just an eyesore, it’s a safety risk for students and staff who enter and leave the building daily. When the control system of an HVAC isn’t working properly, temperatures across a building fluctuate a considerable amount.

All three principals described a similar scenario: One room might be cold, forcing kids to wear a coat or switch classrooms. Another room in the same building might exceed 80 degrees, causing fatigue and distracting kids from learning.

“I hate to say it’s the new norm,” said Julie Crawford, principal of Eldorado Elementary School, which was built in 2000. “It’s awful to say that in the county we are all part of, this is the new norm.”

Her school alone needs $1.4 million for Tier 1 needs, which the district classifies as the most critical building repairs. Components that need to be upgraded or replaced are the generator, heating and cooling system, fire alarm system, roof and interior door hardware, according to the district.

Built in 2000, Arrowwood Elementary School’s cemented sidewalks are cracked, separated and missing chunks. The hinges on some bathroom stalls are loose. A thick layer of dirt covers the grout in some of the tiled floors.

Across the hall from a kindergarten classroom is a leaky window. When it rains, the surrounding carpet gets soaked.

“I do worry about mold,” said Linda Chadrick, the school’s principal. Her school needs $1.2 million for building repairs.

The condition of her school, Chadrick said, sends a message to the community.

“You want a building to be cared for,” she said. “It’s a reflection — if you’re not able to care for your building, are you going to be able to care for my kids?”

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