The new high and middle schools buildings opened for students in the fall of 2020 and have been well received by students, teachers, staff, parents, and the community. By October the gym, cafeteria, and performance arts spaces were complete. This was the single largest public project in Chaffee County history.
Article published in the Ark Valley Voice on November 3, 2020
Behind the masks, the gathering was all smiles Monday morning at the ribbon-cutting for the new Buena Vista Middle and High School.
The group celebrated the completion of the $50.8 million, two-phase project, which saw project groundbreaking in December 2018 and construction beginning March 2019 following demolition. Construction in phases was originally scheduled for completion for Aug. 2020; sometimes the work took place in close proximity to ongoing classes and student activity.
This would have been a feat in and of itself. But add a global pandemic, school closures, and the uncertainty of whether construction could even proceed as the threat of COVID-19 grew, and this Nov. 2 grand opening is even more remarkable.
The new complex totals 128,072 square feet with 99,195 square feet new and 28,877 square feet renovated.
The project entailed the construction of a new two-story high school and middle school academic wing, a flex-commons area, a new administration space, a new tech/art/music/consumer studies area, and a media entry/connector area.
The project also includes new driveway areas and parking, a new middle school gym, and renovation of the existing high school gym.
The most recent phase contains the auditorium, kitchen/lunchroom, new gym, art rooms, foods room, and existing gym remodel.
The project was able to move ahead after voters, in a second go-round at a ballot question, approved a $29.5 million bond. That enabled the Buena Vista School District to secure a $21.3 million BEST Grant (Building Excellent Schools Today) through the Colorado Department of Education’s Division of Public School Construction Assistance.
In addition to giving the grades 9 through 12 students a new place to learn, the space creates a new center point for the community — a gathering place for sports, theatre, and music. Superintendent Lisa Yates called it “a special, sacred place.”
The project team consisted of: Cooperative Strategies, owner representative; Abe Hachmann, owner consultant; Treanor HL, architects; and Haselden/Diesslin, joint construction partners.
Yates lauded the team’s efforts and ability to work through a very unique situation this year. “This is the A Team gathered here today, and I’m grateful,” she said.
“Schools are a vital part of building a community,” said Chaffee County Commissioner Keith Baker, who was on Buena Vista’s town board while discussion of the school project gathered steam ahead of the bond issue.
He said school facilities — and not just the academics offered — are a drawing point for people and businesses thinking about sinking roots into a community.
He also pointed out that the project contains the largest performance space in the county. “I’m just really tickled to death about it.”
Commissioner Greg Felt said that schools set the rhythm for a community. “All the institutions take their cues from the schools,” he said. He also noted how the project was able to move ahead through the pandemic and finish on time.
If a team can accomplish that, “we can do anything,” he said.
School board member Ken McMurry said the students now have the luxury of cold water in the fountains (available after the pandemic) as well as faster internet and a host of other upgrades. He said the students, staff, and administration have embraced the space as their own, and he urged the community to step forward and do the same.
“That’s what makes it a school,” he said. “Follow the lead of the kids.”
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