School district sets plans for capital improvement projects

Students will return to class on August 20 for the first day of school in the San Juan School District.

There are a number of new faces in the faculty and staff of each school, plus new students. In addition, the district is setting up a process that will deal with new construction and new schools.

The school district is moving ahead with an aggressive capital projects strategy that will result in a new elementary school in Monument Valley.

Construction is scheduled to begin in January, 2010 on Tsébii’nidzisgai Elementary School in Monument Valley. School officials plan to open the new school in August, 2011. It will replace the aging elementary school at Mexican Hat.

The new elementary school is just the beginning of the capital projects in the San Juan School District, which operates 12 schools throughout the sprawling district.

The majority of schools in the district were built during a flurry of construction in the 1950s and 1960s. The question of how to deal with aging facilities has been a growing concern of the district.

The first project to be completed is a significant remodel of the Zenos L. Black Building, which houses special education, and career and technical education programs adjacent to San Juan High School in Blanding.

The remodeling project, with a price tag of $819,000, was largely completed this week in anticipation of the first day of school on August 20.

At their monthly board meeting on August 12, the school board approved a tentative plan for the next phase of capital projects.

In addition to the new school, which carries an anticipated price tag of $9 million, the district will build a number of new homes adjacent to the new school. The homes will provide housing for teachers and staff. The expected cost of the housing project is $2.5 million.

The next construction phase approved by the school board will be needed work at Monument Valley and Whitehorse high schools.

The project at Whitehorse High School in Montezuma Creek is estimated to cost $1 million and will result in a new heating source for the school, in addition to improvements to its mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

The Monument Valley High School project will cost an estimated $600,000 and will result in improved classrooms and updated mechanical and lighting systems.

The next phase of construction will be a new elementary school in Monticello and improvements to recreation facilities in high schools throughout the district.

A recent study indicates there are a number of structural problems at Monticello Elementary School, which was built more than 50 years ago.

School District Business Manager Clayton Holt told the board, “Based upon the information we have regarding the condition of all school buildings within the district, Monticello Elementary School appears to have the most significant long-term need.

“In addition to the general problems associated with all district buildings of similar age, ground water problems have caused a portion of the building’s structure to settle and place the long-term structural integrity of the building in question.”

The gymnasium at the school was constructed in 2000 and is structurally sound. However, the remainder of the building will be rebuilt, with an anticipated price tag of $8 million.

The recreation facilities that will be addressed are new concession stands at Monticello, Monument Valley and Whitehorse high schools (estimated cost of $600,000) and rebuilt track and field facilities at San Juan High School (estimated cost of $660,000).

Funds for the projects come from a variety of sources, including approximately $2.5 million a year from the voted leeway approved by county voters in 2006. Other sources include federal stimulus funds, recreation funds through San Juan County, and the existing fund balances in the district capital outlay, building reserve and housing funds.

The voted leeway program, which matches local property taxes with state funds, generates roughly $2.5 million a year.

The district will set aside $500,000 each year for “smaller projects,” resulting in an annual contribution to the capital projects fund of roughly $2 million.

The school board has indicated that it does not intend to assume any debt for the capital projects, meaning the fund balance will need to pay for each project.

Using available funds and anticipated annual additions to the funds, the district can move ahead with the first two phases of construction.

Funds to complete the third phase of construction will be in place within five years.

San Juan Record

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