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Grant sought for DMS construction

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An architect is putting the finishing touches on a design for a Delta Middle School project that will enhance student safety and address the aging infrastructure of the sixth grade wing.

School board members reviewed preliminary designs with 50J maintenance supervisor John McHugh at a Jan. 15 work session. The intent is to submit an application for a BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) grant by the Feb. 26 deadline.

Established in 2008, BEST provides funds, through a competitive grant process, for the construction of new schools as well as general construction and renovation of existing school facility systems and structures. BEST grants were used for construction at Garnet Mesa and Cedaredge elementary schools.

McHugh estimated the cost of construction at $13 to $14 million, plus a CDE-mandated contingency fund. The Colorado Department of Education typically expects a match of 55 percent, or about $7 million, but the school district plans to suggest a match of approximately 23 percent, or $3.29 million. That level of match proved sufficient for both the Garnet Mesa and Cedaredge elementary grant applications.

Preliminary plans call for a smaller version of the existing Delta Middle School, with room for a cafeteria, band/choral room, special education classrooms, ADA restrooms and a classroom wing. Currently, students cross the campus throughout the day, traveling from the band room to the cafeteria to the main building. That movement, combined with multiple building entrances, raises concerns about student safety.

The sixth grade wing has multiple structural issues, including a flat roof that doesn't accommodate mechanical or technological improvements, a lack of ventilation, and aging water/sewer pipes in the concrete slab.

McHugh discussed numerous deficiencies in the cafeteria as well. He said CDE representatives who visited the site agreed it's not feasible to renovate either the sixth grade wing or the cafeteria.

Ideally, the project will include a new bus lane that will be separate from the parent dropoff area. Not in the budget are parking lot improvements, a new district warehouse and other projects that could take place if the cafeteria is demolished.

School board members discussed the district's unassigned fund balance of $7 million and agreed to set aside the $3.29 million as a pledge for the school district match. Superintendent Caryn Gibson said the funds won't be locked in, but they will indicate the school district's commitment to the project.

A blend of fund balance and a certificate of purchase has also been discussed. Business manager Jim Ventrello said one of the school district's current certificates is due to be paid off in July, which will free up $770,000 annually.

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