2 new schools on opposite ends of Colorado Springs break ground Tuesday

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (The Gazette) - Two ceremonial groundbreakings Tuesday marked the result of voter-approved tax measures allowing Pikes Peak region schools to open in the fall of 2019 on opposite ends of town. They are in Widefield District 3 and Falcon District 49.

Falcon's yet-unnamed elementary school in the Banning Lewis Ranch subdivision is being referred to as Vista Del Pico, after the street where the $20 million school will be.

It will be the first traditional school in the Banning Lewis Ranch area, now served by a D-49 charter school network.

The two-story Vista Del Pico will feature a flexible learning concept with classroom pods connected by open spaces and lots of natural light, said Ron Lee, director of 3B MLO Capital Construction.

The district's 2016 mill levy override provided for another $20 million school, Bennett Ranch Elementary, near Falcon Middle School. It will open Aug. 1.

"These elementary schools are unique from any others we've built," Lee said. "Years ago, we built more of a prototypical school, just the same floor plan used over and over with some modifications."

Widefield D-3, meanwhile, is building the Grand Mountain School for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade in Lorson Ranch southeast of Colorado Springs.

The $41 million project is part of a $49.5 million bond authorization approved last November to accommodate growth, said Superintendent Scott Campbell.

Preschoolers and kindergartners will attend classes in a one-story wing. Other grades will be grouped into pods on two levels.

The school will have a computer science instructional model and energy-efficient lighting and mechanical systems, drought-tolerant native landscaping and large community areas for breakout sessions.

A 14-member naming committee of parents, students, teachers and residents conducted a survey in February, generating 143 responses, said D-3 spokeswoman Samantha Briggs.

The list was narrowed to 15 names that met district policy, and a second survey asked residents for their top three picks.

Briggs said 1,534 people responded, and seven names were presented to the school board, which voted on the final name.

"Grand Mountain refers to Pikes Peak and was a fan favorite among students," Briggs said.

The new principal, Brian Pohl, is moving to Colorado Springs from Ohio, where he's spent eight years as an assistant principal of discipline and a high school principal.

Pohl said he "values relationships as the cornerstone of all educational endeavors."

The new elementary schools are only two of many projects underway in Falcon D-49. In all, 57 refurbishing projects costing $5.8 million are to be done over the summer, said Lee, of the construction company.

Asbestos is being removed from all buildings, and all schools are getting secure entries, with visitors to enter lobbies before accessing the building.

Falcon High's new academic wing, with nursing labs and other features, is to be finished this summer, Lee said.

Vista Ridge High's conversion of a multipurpose room to an auditorium with stage and addition of an auxiliary gym and new multipurpose room will take until fall, he said.

Sand Creek High's new athletic training facility and the revamping of an academic area to an open- and flexible-learning concept is nearly complete, Lee said.

Patriot High is getting new flooring and converting some classrooms to a kitchen for a culinary arts program.

Other district schools are getting facelifts too.

"It's a ton of projects to juggle," Lee said, "and it's been incredible, the response. The students and staff are excited."

Academy School District 20 also is building and refurbishing schools from a ballot financing measure. Legacy Peak Elementary, a preschool through fifth-grade project-based school, will open in the fall in Wolf Ranch in northeastern Colorado Springs.

A homeschool academy, two online schools and a new cybersecurity training program for high school students also will be on the site.