DEL NORTE—Del Norte Superintendent Christopher Burr opened a public meeting on May 10 to discuss and explain the district’s plans for the 2017-18 school year and BEST program. The lunch cafeteria in the Mesa Elementary building was packed with school staff and parents eager to hear what the next few years may have in store for the district. Burr welcomed the attending audience and began the presentation by explaining what the BEST program is, how far along in the application process the school is and what the next step will be.
According to the Colorado Department of Education, the BEST program was, “Established in 2008 with the signing of C.R.S.22-43.7, BEST provides an annual amount of funding in the form of competitive grants to school districts, charter schools, institute charter schools, boards of cooperative educational services and the Colorado School for the Deaf and the Blind. BEST funds can be used for the construction of new schools as well as general construction and renovation of existing school facility systems and structures.”
The school district applied for the BEST program several years ago but was denied. Apparently when filling out the application, the former superintendent failed to emphasize that the school would be willing to demolish the other exiting buildings to make room for the new building. “That is what I was told and I am going off of what I know,” said Burr. The application was denied through the BEST grant and resubmitted by Burr in February of this year.
Burr continued the presentation stating that the next step in the application process is to present to the BEST council in Denver. Burr and a representative from the BEST program, who agreed to do the presentation with Burr, will be trying to convince the grant board that the Del Norte Mesa Elementary building is in dire need of replacement. “The inspector from BEST failed every system in the Underwood building— every system. If it wasn’t for the fact that the foundation was considered excellent condition we would have scored the highest in the state, making our need for the grant dire,” said Burr.
“Not only are the buildings unsafe for our students, but we also have to consider that they are very expensive to upkeep. Because the building and the walls were made of cement and cinderblocks, the end score when BEST inspectors were finished, scored way lower than we anticipated. That is why the inspector that did our assessments is going to the presentation with me to help explain to the board,” stated Burr.
The score of a building for the BEST grant program is determined by a simple equation that divides the amount of replacement by the amount of repair. Due to the nature of the foundation, the scores for the Underwood building ended up showing that it would be cheaper to repair the building rather than replace it, which is not the case.
The plan for the coming school year will include shutting down the Underwood Elementary building and moving students to the Mesa Elementary building up on the hill. By doing this, Burr explained that the safety of the students would increase; more administrators would be in the same building. “There will be a lot more staff on campus, and we would have a location in the front hall to stop people from entering the building without seeing office personnel, which happens now,” said Burr.
Burr continued to explain that students in kindergarten through second grade would be placed in the Mesa building while grades third and fourth would be moved to the second floor of the middle school while construction is underway for the new elementary school. Though plans remain tentative and based on the results of the presentation to the BEST council, Burr remains optimistic for the coming school year.
Several other meetings will be taking place over the summer to help parents and students prepare for the changes that may take place in the fall. All meetings will be advertised through the Infinity Campus message board or online at www.dncsd.org.