Board keen on 'green,' unsure of LEED

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— The Steamboat Springs School Board is beginning to finalize plans to spend $29.7 million in taxpayer money, and board members agree the district has few issues, if any, that are more important.

On Thursday, architects and engineers presented the board with revised plans for Strawberry Park Elementary School, and representatives from Architectural Energy Corp. provided the board with guidelines for building a "green building" and seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification for Soda Creek Elementary School.

Nearly a dozen community members and district employees attended to hear the presentations and challenged the board to be responsible when it came to selecting environmentally friendly building materials.

Although final costs could change, the silver LEED certification level is approximately $500,000, which likely is why so few schools have pursued LEED certification.

"What a lot of school districts are doing is trying to direct their design teams to do the best they can and use the LEED rating system as a guideline and look for those strategies that really add value to the project and be responsive to local issues and concerns," said Michael Holtz of Architectural Energy Corp. "We encourage them to do the best they can with the constraints of the project."

The district will not ask voters for additional money for the construction projects, so if it opts to pursue LEED certification, that $500,000 would have to come from somewhere else in the plan's budget.

But the board expressed a strong desire to have Soda Creek be a "green building." The district will not seek LEED certification for Strawberry Park.

The board did not ignore the needs of Strawberry Park during Thursday's meeting. Architect Leland Reece attended the meeting to give board members an update on revised plans. During a community forum in December, parents and staff identified several issues with the architects' original drawings of Strawberry Park.

Several classrooms would not have had windows and the projected expansion to the north would limit views for other classrooms. The larger expansion planned on the south would move Strawberry Park's main entrance too close to the parking lot, some parents have said.

The revised plan for Straw-

berry Park presented Thursday moved the expansion to the west, giving all classrooms windows and each classroom an outdoor exit for safety.

Building codes would require the district to install sprinklers at an approximate cost of $250,000 if all classrooms don't have exterior exits, Reece said.

The next issue at Strawberry Park is where the children will eat. The revised plans would still utilize the arcade instead of the gymnasium for lunch.

Strawberry Park Principal Mark MacHale would like to free up the gym for additional class time and indoor recess. A new floor would be installed and the acoustics would be improved in the arcade to accommodate the change.

Strawberry Park students currently use the arcade for indoor recess.

But some parents and staff have concerns with changing the arcade into a cafeteria.

"It seems to be a no-brainer," board member Pat Gleason said of the plans to use the arcade for the cafeteria instead of the gym. "You got a gym where they can use an outside voice or an arcade where they can't. Am I missing something here?"

Architects and engineers want to get started on the final drawings so they can closely follow the construction timeline they have created. Delaying decisions only delays the design process, Reece said.

"I was hoping the board would give us a clear direction Monday on whether you wanted to head in a LEED certification direction or not," Reece said.

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