Jefferson High School in Boulder could be overhauled with up to $12.5 million in upgrades and expansion depending on how voters decide on a facilities bond proposal expected on this year’s ballot in November.

The Jefferson High School Board of Trustees and SMA Architects presented proposed facilities expansions and improvements, and took community input, at a meeting at the school on June 29.

SMA Architects had previously conducted two surveys about possible improvements: a community and demographic survey in 2019 and an assessment of building conditions in 2020. Using the building conditions assessment, the school sent a survey on possible upgrades or relocation to registered voters in the district. While 38.2 percent of respondents supported no upgrades to the school, 61.3 percent supported improvements of some kind, ranging from bare-bones upgrades to moving the school to a new facility in the north end of the county. Based on those results, the board agreed to pursue extensive renovations to the existing school in Boulder, originally estimated to cost $13–15 million.

The current proposal from SMA Architects is lower than that, with the preliminary bond amount for construction estimated at $8.1–10.5 million. When “soft costs” including fees, permitting, and testing—as well as furniture, fixtures and equipment—were added, the total amount clocked in at $9.6–12.5 million.

With a $12.5-million bond, a home with an assessed market value of $100,000 would be charged $52.55 annually, and a $300,000 property would be charged $160.66 annually. For the $9.6 million bond, a $100,000 property would pay $38.99 annually and a $300,000 property would pay $116.96.

JHS Superintendent Tim Norbeck said at the meeting that one of the tasks put in front of him when he was first hired was to increase enrollment.

“In the last five years, we’ve increased [enrollment by] almost 100 students. So those modulars, when I was first here, one was used for a couple of classes and maybe a driver’s ed. The others were storage—full of junk that accumulated for decades. Then all of a sudden we had to revamp those back into classrooms,” Norbeck said.

“We haven’t had any major upgrades since the late 1980s with the new gym,” Kyrie Russ, vice-chair of the JHS Board of Trustees, said at the meeting. “I graduated from here in the class of ‘99. During my time at JHS, they added modulars ... those modulars were meant to be temporary.”

SMA Architects and the board’s bond committee created a ranking of facility needs based on priority, with classroom space topping the list:

Increase classroom space with modern classrooms.

Safety and security upgrades.

Americans with Disabilities Act access.

Mechanical, electrical and plumbing upgrades.

Special education upgrades.

Drama and theater upgrades.

Track and field improvements.

Structural upgrades.

“The committee struggled on this,” SMA Architects Principal and President Jason Davis said, citing the top-three priorities as being the most difficult to rank. “Everybody wants the kids to be safe and secure. It being number two doesn’t mean we think it isn’t as important, there was a bit of a tug of war there.”

Davis also said that ADA accessibility was “tough to ignore” because compliance affects district liability, as well as student dignity.

From there, SMA Architects created a series of proposed, prioritized solutions.

“We are looking at potential solutions—what are the best solutions that identify and address the most of these needs?” SMA Architect Clint Fisher said during the presentation.

SMA Architects Project Manager Scott Deitle explained various proposals, the costliest of which addressed the most needs.

“This first prioritized solution is an expanded addition with classrooms, and this kills many birds with one stone,” Deitle said. “It takes care of a lot of the ADA access, it takes care of a lot of the safety and security of the modulars.”

The proposed addition, on east side of the school, would be between 19,400 and 23,700 square feet, and also included renovating approximately 2,600 square feet within the existing school, at a total cost of $4.5–5.6 million. 

“What this does is replace the modular classrooms, bringing those classrooms back into the school as a secure set of classrooms,” Deitle explained. “We are also adding two more classrooms. We are also taking that art room that is problematic for [ADA] accessibility and bringing that into ... the addition, bringing two science classrooms into this scheme as well as the [special education], and finally bringing in the music room ... all in one package.”

According to Deitle, the proposal solves “almost all” of the issues, tackling classrooms, security and accessibility.

“It also opens up some free space for storage in that [old] art room,” he said.

The downsides, he said, are that it’s the costliest proposal, it would reduce parking (he said this could be avoided by making the addition two floors) and it doesn’t address the school’s undersized auditorium. 

Another proposal addressed only safety and security issues. It would renovate the school’s front entrance to feature a secure entryway where visitors would speak with school employees via an intercom before being allowed inside. It would also add external door sensors and a new clock-bell system that would allow silent messages to be sent to classrooms in case of an emergency. 

Another proposal addressed mechanical, electrical and plumbing upgrades.

“There are so many [upgrades] on our list,” Deitle said.

Upgrades included fire protection, pipe insulation, replacing a water main that “could go at any minute,” ventilation, and boiler and temperature control upgrades.

“The nerdy [mechanical, electrical and plumbing] stuff we don’t have enough room on this slide to list,” Deitle joked during the presentation, reiterating that the upgrades would make “the school more comfortable and [make] it easier for Dan [Sturdevant, the facilities director] to maintain on a regular basis,” as well as prolong the life of the school and increase energy efficiency. The mechanical, electrical and plumbing improvements would cost about $1.88 million.

More limited proposals included only ADA upgrades, which would renovate bathrooms to meet ADA-accessibility standards, as well as “tweaking” locker rooms, the art room and music room access at a cost of approximately $253,000. Expanding the Career and Technical Education space, which would include adding a dust collection system, expansion or reconfiguration, and moving welding and small engines into rooms with better ventilation, would cost approximately $1.3 million. Track, field and grounds upgrades, which would improve tennis courts, create an all-weather track, add grass irrigation, add parking and allow JHS to host track meets, was estimated at $756,000.

The combined cost to complete all of the plans was estimated at $8.1–10.5 million before “soft costs.”

SMA Architects distributed surveys to meeting attendees to gauge interest in each of the separate proposals, as well as the maximum bond amount each respondent would support. Attendees were quiet when asked for public comment during the meeting.

“A combined square-foot cost is a little tricky right now,” Fisher said, citing rising construction costs. “‘None of this is finalized. These are ranges and we want to get feedback.”

“We are also early in defining the bond proposal. We want to get input and feedback from the community on that scope of work,” he said. “Based on feedback from [the community] and work from the [bond] committee, we will be finalizing the bond proposal to get a November vote out. We have to have that bond language finalized by the end of July.”

Then, according to Fisher, there will be a campaign from August through October to educate the district on the bond proposal and build support for its passage.

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