Views from the inside | CraigDailyPress.com

Views from the inside

CMS students and staff support bond issue

Collin Smith

— Craig Middle School teachers have been there.

They worked under bundles of cords and cables – affectionately called “varicose veins” by some – and they worked under leaky roofs, too.

They worked in science classrooms with few functioning faucets and no gas lines for chemistry lessons.

They worked in hot rooms. They worked in cold rooms. They worked in rooms narrow and long, rooms that made it hard to see the students on the far end.

Craig Middle School teachers did all these things, and Alicia Townsend, CMS social studies department head and teacher, is “excited at the possibilities” of a new facility.

Other teachers interviewed echoed her sentiments.

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A new facility still is a “possibility.”

The Citizens for Moffat County Schools campaigned during the last three months for a Moffat County School District bond question, up in Tuesday’s general election.

The district is looking to pass a 20-year, $29.5 million tax initiative, which would pay for major capital construction projects, including a new middle school facility and renovations to all district schools.

Almost $16 million of the constructions costs are earmarked for building at the middle school, which makes it the district’s largest project. Plans there call for demolishing the entire building except for the gym, industrial arts building and the auditorium.

It’s not for the teachers’ benefit, Townsend said.

It’s the students who suffer when the library loses a bunch of books to water leaks, which happened three or four years ago, she added.

“This is not a matter of eye candy,” Townsend said. “This is a matter of what environment the kids learn in.”

Townsend keeps a jug of store-bought water on her desk because she doesn’t drink from CMS water fountains. Neither do some of the students.

“In the morning, you have to run the water for 10 minutes to get the clean stuff,” said Keith Scott, CMS eighth-grader.

Some teachers expressed a disconnect with residents who don’t work with the School District.

“Looking at the building from the outside, and when people just walk through it, they can’t see all the problems that can’t be fixed,” said Becky Field, CMS seventh-grade science teacher. “I think everyone working here sees the need. I hope (the community) sees the need.”

Students, teachers and district officials interviewed alike thought the notion of saving the middle school building because it is a Craig landmark missed the forest for the trees.

The building is much older now, and despite its long run, it’s time to move forward with something new, they said.

“A lot of us graduated from there, myself included,” said Mike Taylor, School District facilities director. “I think we have to weigh that with what is best for the kids and their education. This is something we need to look to the future for.”

The middle school wasn’t in the best shape 20 years ago – when the gas lines rotted out and after the water lines were so corroded the district had to run lines from Craig Intermediate School, Taylor said.

Now, it’s in such shape that Taylor doesn’t think it can be patched much longer.

The middle school would need $7 million to $9 million for all the necessary renovations, Taylor said.

“It’s at a point now, we can’t keep piecemealing it,” Taylor said. “Renovations are possible, but it won’t be money well-spent because of the cost involved to bring everything up to today’s standards.”

A protest vote

Duane “Cris” Criswell is a Craig resident who thinks the Moffat County School District is being unfair to the rest of Moffat County.

“I’m not against new facilities here in Craig, but I am if they’re not evenly distributed around the county,” Criswell said. “I think fair is fair.”

Since Dinosaur and other Moffat County residents outside of Craig would be paying for new schools, those residents should be getting schools they can legitimately use, he said.

“If we’re going to have bond elections to build facilities here in Craig, we should build them in Dinosaur and Maybell, too,” Criswell said. “Those people pay taxes there like we do. What benefit do they get out of it? It’s grossly unfair.”

There’s really no way around that problem, School District Assistant Superintendent Joel Sheridan said.

Moffat County School District pulled out of Dinosaur a few years ago because most students were graduating from Rangely School District.

MCSD thought the students would be better served going through Rangely the whole way through, Sheridan added.

Preschool teachers coming around

Renovations around the district include some other big changes, changes district officials think are necessary to have the best learning environment.

When the Moffat County School District first thought about construction projects, an original goal was to limit how many times students transition from one building to another, Superintendent Pete Bergmann said. There are studies that show when students change campuses, they are more likely to suffer grade and behavior problems.

Under the district’s plans, preschools would move from the Administration Building on Yampa Avenue into all the elementary schools.

The preschool staff was initially uneasy about “splitting up the team” to different schools, Preschool Director Sarah Hepworth said.

“It’s a unified team that works very well together,” Hepworth said. “At first, there were mixed emotions.”

Now the staff, by and large, thinks the change is positive, she said. The Administration Building was not designed for classrooms, and some of what the preschool teachers have to use are pretty cramped, Hepworth said.

“It’s really geared for better preschool education and better student transition,” Hepworth added.

Student transitions between buildings will reduce from five to three under the new plan.

Preschool classes will integrate into elementary schools, Craig Intermediate School will become an elementary school and sixth grade will move to the middle school.

Students would go through preschool to fifth grade at one campus, then sixth through eighth and finally ninth through 12th.

Dollars, cents

The district is looking to pass a 20-year, $29.5 million tax initiative, which would pay for major capital construction projects including a new middle school facility and renovations to all district schools.

The initiative would raise property taxes around the county.

If approved, the bond would responsible for up to $2.7 million a year and pay a final total of $54 million.

The tax amount generated by the county for the bond cannot exceed $2.7 million in a year, so if the tax base expands in the future, the property taxes associated with the bond would decrease until the revenue equaled that amount.

The county has to pay more than the schools need in construction costs to cover 20 years of interest for the bond loan.

Going by current interest rates, taxes for a typical Craig home assessed at $150,000 would amount to $61 per year, or about $5 per month, wrote Mark Rydberg, School District finance director, in a letter to Daily Press that ran Oct. 29.

For a typical commercial property, assessed at $210,000, the taxes would be about $312 per year, or $26 per month, he added.