10,000-square-foot modular proposed for Midland Elementary
‘Interim solution’ to enrollment upsurge while monitoring Gold Hill Mesa project’s impact

       Nobody lives at Gold Hill Mesa right now - except perhaps a jackrabbit or two scurrying away from grading equipment - but educated guesses about future residents in the Westside subdivision may mean the addition of a modular classroom facility for Midland Elementary by the start of the next school year.
       The District 11 Board of Education will be asked to approve the $500,000 purchase at its next meeting Wednesday, April 13.
       With 10,000 square feet of space and air conditioning, the modular building would be a “substantial improvement” over the portables that have been at Midland for several years, according to Frank Bernhard, the district's executive director of facilities operation and transportation.
       Bernhard made the initial presentation to the school board last month, noting that the school needs the space because of its current “tremendous success” and, based on Gold Hill Mesa's plans, the students that will appear as the first of potentially more than 1,000 homes start attracting buyers a year or so from now.
       Midland Principal Barbara Bishop has not yet seen the modular proposed for her school, “but I have heard it's very nice,” she said in a recent interview.
       The proposed location would be the south end of the main building, in an unpaved parking area, she said.
       In part because of growth in its attendance area and in part because of the appeal of its International Bacca-laureate (IB) program, Midland has increased in enrollment from about 120 students two years ago - when the district deemed it “underutilized” - to 171 in the official count last fall.
       Next fall, Bishop said, plans call for a full-time kindergarten and a second-grade class (the school has a combined 2-3 class this year). “The enrollment demand,” Bernhard told the board, “has outstripped the capacity of the permanent Midland structure.”
       The expectation is that the modular could handle 100 students. According to Bishop, the school might use it for 8 to 10 classrooms.
       The building Bernhard wants the district to buy is used, but in good condition, he said. It would be moved in sections and assembled on site.
       In addition to the school's current capacity issues, the modular is an attempt to be ready for Gold Hill Mesa, a development whose concept plan calls for mostly residential with some commercial development on 214 acres bounded on the south by Lower Gold Camp Road, on the west by 21st Street, on the north by Highway 24 and on the east by commercial and residential.
       All of Gold Hill Mesa, as well as smaller, nearby developments that have been going in north of Rio Grande Street in recent years, are in the Midland attendance area, Bishop noted.
       Bernhard estimates that Gold Hill will generate as many as 300 elementary-age students by the time it reaches full build-out of close to 1,000 homes. He told the Pioneer he reached these calculations based on time-honored district formulas for developments of single-family and multifamily homes.
       However, Gold Hill developer Bob Willard, when asked about these estimates, disputed them as too high. He said the district has not taken into consideration the “urban” style of the Gold Hill Mesa plan, which calls for higher density and lack of the grassy backyards typical of suburban single-family homes.
       “We'll be appealing mostly to empty nesters,” he said. “There's not going to be a lot of kids.”
       Willard's estimates of children are about a third of what the district's are. For example, in Phase 1, for which grading is currently underway and construction on homes is due to start in the fall, Gold Hill is approved for 306 homes north of Lower Gold Camp Road. Bernhard's formula says that means about 85 elementary students, while Willard estimates about 30.
       Another possible indication can be seen in nearly completed Crown Hill Mesa, a more traditionally designed single-family development just east of the Gold Hill site. Out of Crown Hill's 300-plus homes, Bishop's research shows fewer than 15 students going to Midland, with others homeschooling, attending private schools, or permitting into Chey-enne District 12.
       In any event, Bernhard believes a modular building will provide a good “interim solution” to Midland's current capacity issue and growth in the near future. In the meantime, he's looking several years ahead to the possibility of a whole new Midland school, which would be built on the current site and handle about 500 students.
       “We want to see what happens with Phase 1,” he said, adding that it's always possible that changes in the Gold Hill building style or numbers might occur, based on the developer's perception of the market. “Rather than build a new school now, we'd like to handle the load we see and watch how Gold Hill Mesa develops.”

Westside Pioneer article