The Neighborhood Gazette, in an attempt to do a meaningful story about the bond project at Wheat Ridge High School, has stumbled upon some questions that remain yet to be answered.
A Feb. 13 tour of “The Farm” revealed some troubling issues within the walls of a building that should be considered one of the crowning jewels of our community.
Not only are there aesthetic and efficiency issues, but even more concerning are the safety issues throughout that beg the question that all of the administrators involved are asking, “Why have we been left behind, when the new schools were being built around us, or when other major renovations have happened over the last 50 plus years?”
In a statement from Korey Stites (City of Wheat Ridge council member and Mayor Pro Tem) posted Feb. 17 on his Facebook page, Stites wrote, “Valerie Nosler Beck and I met with Jeff Fugita, the new (interim) principal, David Weiss from the district, (Basketball coach) Tommy Dowd, and others at WRHS today. We toured the facility and saw what needs to be done. We were assured by David Weiss (Chief of Schools) that the school district will fulfill all of the promises made by the district. So a new entrance, HVAC work, common area, work done in the auditorium and a new gym floor.”
This statement lies in a stark contrast to what the Neighborhood Gazette discovered during the tour just days before. When flipping through the plans, the words “Reduce scope of project” were notated on nearly every blueprint and plan.
During our visit, interim principal Jeff Fugita remarked, “Because of the unexpected renovations to other schools in the district that were done as a result of COVID, about $3 million was cut from our project budget. Compound that with the skyrocketing costs of the project (those have risen about 25 percent to date), we have had to drastically scale back the scope of the original project.”
Since these visits, the design committee has approved building materials for the new entrance and hopes to get approval from the district to add back $2.5 million to the budget. Fugita told us, “even though we were given the impression that the funds would come through, it does have to be approved by the board. That amount truly only gets us closer to our original budget, before costs went up…”
At the March Accountability Committee meeting, Fugita revealed the approved building materials and updated the group on the visit with city council and Chief of Schools David Weiss. Noting that everyone was “disgusted at the level of neglect at this school and is completely on board with doing anything possible to ensure that the needed changes are made.”
The overall plea to the community from those that are pulling for these changes – including Korey Stites, David Weiss and all administrators at the school – is to reach out to the board and to demand that The Farm is made a priority, and insist that no other projects need to be added other than this renovation.
Fugita told the Neighborhood Gazette during our tour that “there has been talk of opening a preschool on the property at a $2.4 million price tag.” He encouraged our community to contact the school board and to “urge the board to prioritize items that are not only actually wanted, but desperately needed. Put Wheat Ridge High School at the top of the list where it belongs, not just because the work is needed but because our kids and community deserve it.”
The Neighborhood Gazette will follow this project and inform our readers about how the promises of the district will be fulfilled. Our hope is to assure our community that Wheat Ridge High School will not fall between the cracks on this bond project.
For more information, including who to contact for details, contact Brenda Ritz at firstname.lastname@example.org.