One of the success stories of the Denver Public School system’s shrewd handling of a 2008 voter-approved $48 million bond was unveiled when the DPS showcased renovations to the 100-year-old North High School.
Mayor Michael Hancock was expected to attend the morning ribbon cutting at the school, 2960 N. Speer Boulevard, along with DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg, DPS Board of Education Vice President Arturo Jimenez and District 9 Councilwoman Judy Montero.
The ceremony not only marked the 100th birthday of the school but gave the public its first opportunity to see the extensive renovations and additions made to NHS made possible by a $454 million General Obligation Bond approved by Denver voters in 2008, as well as the $90 million DPS saved from the bond thanks to “strong cost management” and surprisingly favorable market conditions, according to DPS officials.
“We are thankful to the taxpayers of Denver for supporting the bond program and extremely pleased to be able to offer more schools and improved services to our families as a result of the millions of dollars in savings,” said DPS Superintendent Tom Boasberg said previously. “By being far ahead of schedule and $90 million under budget, we’re able to give our taxpayers a much greater return on their investment in our schools.”
The North High School project, by far one of the most extensive of all of the bond projects involving an existing facility, included the complete renovation and refurbishment of main building constructed in 1911 and the renovation of the 1913 building to allow it to house the new West Denver Prep (formerly located in the Highlands neighborhood) for the 2011-2012 school year which begins on August 18.
There are four buildings in all that comprise the North High School campus.
Other improvements include new windows in the 1983 building, new air conditioning and an energy-efficient heating system, 56 new or renovated classrooms, 10 classrooms that have been restored and upgraded, a new aerobics room and state-of-the-art sciences labs on the second and third floor of the 1983 building.
High efficiency, low water consumption fixtures were also installed throughout the facility and new high-efficiency lighting will increase light levels and quality by 30 percent while reducing energy usage by 30 percent.
With part of the savings from the original bond, DPS constructed new tennis courts and an athletic field at the school as well.
The cost of the entire project was significantly lower thanks to existing features and material being incorporated into the final design by the architectural firm of Humphries Poli and Peterson Construction, Inc., DPS officials explained.
The North High School project was one of 240 made possible by the $90 million in savings, DPS said. Others include the construction of three new schools (Swigert-McAuliffe International School in Stapleton, Vista Academy in far northeast Denver and the Escalante Biggs Academy in Montbello), construction of a new school facility at Colorado Heights University in southwest Denver, the acquisition and expansion of Lutheran High School in southwest Denver and the Slavens and Fallis elementary schools in southeast Denver.
The additional funds were also used to supply laptop computers for all teachers, expand the accessibility of classroom technology, upgrade the wireless capabilities at all DPS facilities and create an online resource site for teachers, parents and students.
The projects that were made possible by the original bond have created and/or sustained more than 6,000 jobs, DPS states, with the new projects responsible for another 2,200 jobs.
Most of the projects are expected to be completed by the end of 2012, more than a year ahead of schedule. A new General Obligation Bond is being readied for the 2012 ballot, DPS officials said.
In other DPS news, Superintendent Boasberg testified this week at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce in Washington, D.C., voicing his support of the Leading Effective Academic Practice (LEAP) initiative set to begin in the DPS next month.
The LEAP initiative was one of the innovative approaches to improving teacher quality discussed at the hearing that also included other education experts from across the nation.
At the Wednesday hearing, Boasberg said improving teacher quality is a DPS “top priority.”
“(T)hat is why the LEAP support system focuses so intensely and purposefully on providing a comprehensive and sophisticated system of coaching and feedback for our educators,” Boasberg said.
The LEAP program, which utilizes targeted training and support of teachers as well as “meaningful feedback” is part of the DPS Framework for Effective Teaching, a program constructed especially for DPS teachers and students. It was unveiled in 16 schools in the past year and nearly all DPS schools voted to be a part of the no-consequences program this school year.
The program, partially funded by a three-year, $10 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was a developed through a collaboration between the Denver Classroom Teachers Association and district educators.