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What are we building?

The campaign includes:

  • Construction of a new K-8 schoolhouse, gym and a music and science learning center
  • Re-envisioning of the original school building as an outdoor Central Area and tower
  • Redesign of a pedestrian-friendly campus separating cars from people
  • Green spaces (playing fields, outdoor classrooms, sledding hill and commons)
  • Campus sustainability and energy efficiency upgrades
  • Necessary site work including improved septic, water, and technology systems
  • Four employee housing unites
  • Compass administration building remodel

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Do you have design priorities in place?

Yes! They are the heart of our decision-making process:

“We will create a place that:

  • fosters lifelong learning,
  • builds community,
  • promotes academic excellence,
  • reveres the natural environment, and
  • sustains the school’s heritage, essence and inventive roots.”

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What will happen to the original school and the tower?

In addition to getting a new, state of the art facility, we are also paying tribute to our history. In order to make way for this, the original building will come down as part of Phase II construction.

The tower will be rebuilt, on its same footprint, as a structural and iconic element of the campus. If the original logs are viable, the tower will be re-clad with them. For the first time in a long time, the tower will be accessible via a spiral staircase that leads up to a covered viewing platform, ensuring vistas and egg drops for years to come.

The existing Central Area will also remain in its current footprint, and it will become an outside amphitheatre covered with fabric shade sails. The result will be a stunning, multi-purpose outdoor space:  classroom, performance space and gathering spot. Lastly, the outline of the existing school will remain, featured in the landscape as garden walls and carrying through to the inside of the new music building floor as a decorative line where the footprints overlap.

During deconstruction, we will recycle as much of the original structures as we can to minimize waste across the site.

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I hear the original school is coming down. Why can’t it be saved?

The original school building has been a significant topic since the day this project was a spark of an idea, over a decade ago. Step one was to determine whether we could keep and upgrade the 8,000 square foot building in its entirety. At a cost in excess of $8 million, that option quickly fell off of the list.  Step two was to consider downsizing and repurposing the building, preserving the tower and Central Area, an idea that was put to a lengthy and thorough analysis. The more the DAG and Design Team dug into the realities, the more challenges appeared. Downsizing removes structural walls and divorces the building from the original foundation. The logs are infested with bugs. Ramps and lifts would be installed throughout the Central Area to meet accessibility codes. Ductwork would thread the ceiling. In short, the space we were striving to preserve would be unrecognizable AND we would still have a 42-year-old building to maintain. The more we learned, the more we woke up to the fact that we had to take the final step in letting go. The original building is not viable. As soon as we opened our hearts and minds to the option of keeping the tower while designing a new building to house music/performing arts and a project room, the campus concept fell fully into place. What we came to realize is that the spirit of the school actually resides in each of us, rather than in the building itself. What we are preserving is this magnificent piece of land, our iconic tower, the Central Area (now we’ll have two: indoors and outdoors), the way we approach learning, our relationships, and our traditions.

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Why has the campaign/construction budget gone up by $1.5M?

The original master plan was expedited in 2009/10 to meet the BEST Grant deadline and at the time we weren’t able to adequately contemplate the educational uses that exist today — as our verification process in 2014 revealed. There was also a gap between the budget assumptions of that time and construction realities today. For example, square footages for the school increased as we sought to accommodate an additional 5-8 classroom (one more than we had in 2010) and an art classroom in the main building (current best practices). These two spaces added approximately 2,000 sf, and the attendant costs, to our design.

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Can’t you just leave the old school up?

In order to keep that building, no matter the use, we have to bring it up to code, and, at a conservative estimate of $8 million, we know we can’t afford to do that. Letting it stand empty is not an option; mothballing a building comes with huge maintenance and insurance costs that would not be responsible fiscal choices.

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Will the Central Area be the same?

The Central Area will always be the heart of the school, both architecturally and philosophically. We recognize its importance and as such it is a paramount priority in the design of our new school. We hope the new Central Area will accommodate more people more comfortably and still retain the intimacy that we all love about the original. And now we will have a second Central Area, one that is outdoors in the footprint of the original school building. So, the Central Area won’t be the same; it’s going to be better.

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Will there be a community kitchen? An ice rink? Staff offices? Bathrooms in every learning center? A library? Space for visiting artists? The latest technology? A greenhouse garden? Playgrounds? (You get the idea.)

These — and all other wish list items submitted by the community — are being considered by the Design Advisory Group (DAG), a ten-member volunteer school committee that is charged with setting priorities and vision for the new campus. Using the design guiding principles, the DAG will filter, prioritize and share these suggestions with our Design Team, Studio B | Cuningham.

Here is a real-world example of how this filtering process works: during the comment period a student suggested a water fountain in each classroom. Before the DAG passes this idea along to the Design Team, they will first have a discussion about how it lines up with the design guiding principles. It may be in concert with “promotes academic excellence,” because students spend more time in the classroom and less time going back and forth to get hydrated. Alternately, this wish list item may be in conflict with “builds community,” because less time is spent interacting with fellow students and staff on the way to and at the communal water fountain. Weighing the merits of each against the principles, and against the master plan vision, the DAG will prioritize goals and pass those filtered priorities along to the Design Team.

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Why are we fundraising for playing fields?

From the beginning of this project, we knew the site was equally as important as the buildings. We intentionally selected a design team that had a landscape architect (not all of them do). We have honored this spectacular piece of property by making the landscape a focal part of our design.

With that in mind, we’ve had a consistent goal to create a pedestrian-centric, outdoor campus experience. The new site plan absorbs the existing playing field for the main school building and bus drop-off area. It is vital that we get traffic and cars out of the center of campus, so we are swapping our existing parking lot for the future home of our playing field. This will need to be landscaped, irrigated and laid with sod. It is part of our vision to create campus greens on the limited topography available at the center of the school. The beauty of this design is that the Early Childhood Center and gym will be directly adjacent to the playing field.


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Are you building this as a LEED-certified project?

Yes. Not only are we are targeting LEED Gold Certification, and we are also taking the “2030 Carbon Neutral Challenge.”

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What will happen to the gym?

In the summer of 2014, the original gym was torn down, with its materials sorted for recyling. A new gym will be built between the existing maintenance barn and parking lot egress, using exterior materials that blend with the surrounding environment. The interior will be designed to be a flexible space that can convert with ease from a gym to an event hall.

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Will you be able to keep the garden?

Of course! We’re keeping the existing garden and also planning our site to allow for additional growing opportunities, such as a campus greenhouse, as the educational program dictates.

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Have you integrated renewable energy plans?

Absolutely! We are dedicated to taking full advantage of the viable sources of renewable energy on our property. Currently, the best and most cost effective source is solar energy.

But first, it is important to begin with a highly efficient building design that minimizes the need to turn on lights, cooling or heating any more than necessary. Current energy modeling estimates the new K-8 and Gym/Community Hall buildings at approximately 62% savings over the national average for school buildings, or a 38% reduction in energy usage over the baseline design required by national energy standards.

This combination of renewable energy and energy efficiency will help us meet our LEED Gold certification goal and our target for the Carbon Neutral 2030 Challenge.

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How will the kids be involved?

We are committed to including students in the design and building process. Starting in 2013, longtime teacher Chris Faison began student involvement. Projects thus far include: a Student Apprentice Architectural Group that, among its projects, is building a model of the schematic design; student photographers who are video-archiving the campus as it exists today as well as creating a construction time lapse video; and all ages staking out the new building. We will also be providing regular tours of the construction site to students. It is an organic process and we will take advantage of the many amazing opportunities for kids to get involved, as they present themselves.

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How have you involved the community in the design process?

In the fall of 2013, we initiated a Co-Creative Design Process that included an array of opportunities for community members to join the design conversation during a two-month comment period. Participation was welcomed through community design meetings, teacher and staff gatherings, Facebook comments, suggestion boxes, email and office hours. The process generated 191 unique suggestions that were logged and delivered to the Design Advisory Group for consideration. The DAG greenlighted 73% of them during Schematic Design, with more under consideration during Design Development.

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How can we stay informed?

By liking our Facebook page and signing up for e-news, you’ll have updates and invitations to participate delivered right to your inbox. You can also visit our website where, we publish building progress posts and other news.

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What will the new facilities provide for the students and staff?

The main deliverable will be a new school — with ample space to learn, an energy-efficient building, 21st Century technology, functional/cleanable spaces, and, frankly, non-apologetic bathrooms — that makes room for ACS’s unique philosophy of experiential, interdisciplinary, cross-age learning.

In short, the new facilities will allow us to live our philosophy and build our future. At the Community School, we encourage students to take risks, to reflect, and to keep an open mind. They respond with imaginations that seem to know no bounds, except those imposed by their overcrowded classrooms. These young scholars, artists, builders, musicians, scientists, writers, and actors will now have the room they need to soar.

Students and staff will benefit from:

  • Facilities that are as innovative as the school’s philosophy and as imaginative as its students and staff
  • An additional 5,000 square feet of learning space
  • 25% more classroom space and 50% increase in visual and performing arts areas
  • Energy-efficient spaces that students can monitor and study
  • Accessibility for those with physical disabilities
  • A community hall that converts to a gymnasium
  • Pedestrian-friendly campus that separates cars from people
  • Improved water and septic systems, and much more

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What will the new facilities provide for the community?

Students will be able to realize their bright futures and limitless potential, the repercussions of which just happen to better the entire valley and, dare we say, the world. ACS alums — who are making a difference as teachers, designers, actors, entrepreneurs, and musicians (and so much more) and who have a deep connection to this place — contribute to the social fabric of their communities.

We are building facilities that support this expansive vision and will be an asset to public education and the community. There are three direct community benefits:

  • A community hall available for functions
  • Four employee housing units
  • Potential for summer programming on the campus

In addition, an investment in ACS will support broad returns such as:

  • Promoting educational excellence in the U.S., including facilities that are as innovative as the school itself
  • Educational choice in the Roaring Fork Valley with equal access to ACS’s small school environment, low student/teacher ratios, award-winning curriculum, and integrated arts program
  • Environmental leadership, including renewable energy, use of green building materials, improved energy efficiency, natural daylighting, and LEED Gold targets

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