Windsor Middle School is a key part of the Weld School District’s RE-4 potential bond
In a few weeks, the Weld School District RE-4 School Board will vote to decide whether a $271 million bond proposal measure will be included in ballots in November.
The board is due to vote at its Aug. 15 meeting in Windsor. The meeting begins at 7:00 p.m. in the Board Room of the District Administration Building on Main Street.
But first, on Monday, the board will convene for a business session where it will discuss and consider potential voting issues on mill bonds and royalties, according to the business session agenda. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. It will also be held in the Board Room of the Administrative Building and the meeting will be streamed live: https://live.myvrspot.com/st?cid=ZmI5MD
The board discussed a possible MLO earlier this month during a previous working session.
The school district has maintained the need for new schools, renovated schools, and other facilities over the past few years in the face of increased student enrollment.
The district said it is conservatively projecting 6,497 students at Weld RE-4 schools this year, excluding Windsor Charter Academy. The district estimates just over 8,000 students with WCA added to the projection, representing a 98.5% increase over the past 12 years.
Eight of the district’s nine schools exceeded their construction capacity. To manage growth for the upcoming school year, the district purchased five modular buildings (25 classrooms) at a cost of $8.9 million. The modules are being installed, according to Weld RE-4 Communications and Public Relations Manager Katie Smith.
If the board votes to include the bond measure on the ballot, it will be the second time in two years the district has tried to secure capital funding to build and renovate schools. A $179 million bond measure failed by less than 500 votes in last year’s ballot.
One component of the bond proposal focuses on Windsor Middle School, a nearly 100-year-old building located in a high-traffic corridor on Main Street. The college has a capacity of 700 students in grades six through eight. Enrollment at the school in the 2021-22 school year was 818. Over 830 students (834) are registered to attend Windsor Middle for 2022-23 as of the end of July.
The proposal on the table for the middle school recommends building a new 900-student middle school on 15th Street in Windsor at an estimated cost of $92.5 million. A new college there was also part of the bond package rejected by voters a year ago.
The middle school project under the current version of the bond includes maintaining the existing middle school in Windsor as a middle school until it can be repurposed for future use in the district. New chief operating officer Michael McCullar said earlier this month that the request to keep the current Windsor Middle School came from the school board and the bond advisory committee.
“If we had closed Windsor Middle School as soon as it opened, we would already be at full capacity,” McCullar said during an online community meeting July 19 about the proposed bond package. “We were already delayed by the 2020 election being canceled and then the 2021 bond failing, our growth continued to accelerate and we didn’t want to open a whole new building at full capacity.”
The current bond package also allows for the repair of buildings in several schools. Repairs at the college will focus on replacing the roof, rooftop units, boilers and water heaters, according to information posted July 28 on the district’s Facebook page.
“Both the city and the district want to remove Windsor Middle School from Main Street,” said Chris Ruff, a Windsor resident and a member of the district’s long-range planning committee and bond advisory committee. “No one is against it. But we are not there yet.”
Smith said if the bail passes the district’s plan, Severance Middle and the new middle school will have a capacity of 900 students. Severance Middle School is set to receive a 300-seat addition and a second gymnasium under the current bond proposal.
The district will then form a boundary committee representative of the community to decide on the boundaries of the three colleges.
A portion of Windsor Middle School, more than 36,000 square feet, remains closed and unused. There is asbestos in this section. McCullar said the approximate cost is $1.2 million to demolish this section. He gave the estimate in response to a question about asbestos in the building during the July 19 online community town hall.
McCullar added that asbestos is inspected and assessed every six months, and the building is due for a third-party inspection this summer.
“We have processes in place to monitor asbestos where it exists,” McCullar said. “Specifically at Windsor Middle School, this part of the building has been closed and students are not permitted in this area.”
Smith said there was no record of the district requesting funding 20 years ago to remove asbestos from the college and the work then did not take place.
Smith said safety and maintenance issues in the building were addressed with funds from the 2016 bond. A secure entrance was added and repairs were made to sewers, mechanics and drainage. Parts of the building received new paint and new carpets and new LED lighting in classrooms and hallways.
Earlier this year, a layer of asbestos was discovered in the roof of the former Greeley West Secondary School as it was being prepared for demolition. Asbestos removal continued this month. The process must be completed before the remaining part of the building is demolished.
The school will be replaced by a rebuilt Greeley West in the coming weeks and in time for the start of the new school year next month.
Asbestos is a mineral fiber found in rock and soil, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Asbestos has been used in a variety of building materials for insulation and as a fire retardant due to the strength of its fibers and its resistance to heat. Asbestos does not pose a health risk if managed properly, according to the EPA.
Ruff said the building other than this section is a “functional school.”
“We’ll fix the roof and do HVAC repairs and move on,” Ruff said. “We don’t want it to fall apart. We cannot afford to close Windsor Middle School as it exists. We need too many seats.