COLORADO SPRINGS — For one of Colorado’s fastest growing school districts, thousands of new homes call for more schools, more teachers, and lots of proactive planning.
“I would say that the booming really started in the early 2000s,” said School District 49 Chief Development Officer Brett Ridgway.
For D49, the floodgates have opened.
“Every single year it flips--between us and Brighton 27J--who’s the fastest growing district,” Ridgway said.
And the floodgates have stayed open.
“We know it’s not gonna stop for a long time,” he said.
And that’s why district leaders stay proactive.
“We know what’s coming,” Ridgway said. “We’re not gonna be caught by surprise.”
Case-in-point, the district recently sent the City of Colorado Springs a letter, letting the city know the district is working with the developer of the nearly 3000 home Banning Lewis Ranch North development to make room for future schools.
So how many new schools does the district need this decade?
“What’s interesting about that question, is that it’s not as simple as it would’ve been 20 or 30 years ago,” Ridgway said.
Schools offer families more options these days.
“Online education and hybrid education is becoming more and more of a presence,” he said.
It’s hard to predict how that demand might shift over the next decade, but there are some immediate certainties.
“We say our biggest pressure point is in middle school right now,” he said.
Ridgway said a new middle school, and probably a new elementary school are on the horizon in the next couple years, with funds available.
“76 percent of this current mill levy override is dedicated to facility growth,” he said. “That’s how we built our last two elementary schools, that’s how we will build the next middle school and the next elementary after that.”
But there’s another need.
“In all likelihood there will be a need for another large high school,” he said.
For a project of that scale--it’ll probably be up to voters to give it the green light.
“Another high school, in all likelihood, would require a separate effort, would probably be a bond question,” he said.
He said a new high school would likely be needed some time toward the middle of the decade, as well as expanded capacity at the district's existing high schools.