SAGUACHE— State Senator Larry Crowder and State Representative Donald Valdez spoke to Saguache residents gathered for a community meal at the Saguache Community Center last Thursday to discuss the need for a new school at Mountain Valley.
The meeting began with a slideshow presented by Mountain Valley Schools Superintendent Travis Garoutte, who helped those attending the meeting visualize the reasons why the community needs a new school. Some of the slides showed fire escape doors iced over in winter; Saguache County Jail inmates, some of them serving time for violent crimes, exercising along the street fronting the school and flooding in classrooms located in low-lying areas.
A sewer back up in the building last year while school was in session brought sounds of disgust from the audience. A leak located over an electrical short that caused a brief fire along electrical wiring in the school showed the problem could have been much more serious than it turned out to be. There is also asbestos in the building that needs to be removed.
Denver child advocacy attorney Kathleen Gebhardt told school administrators in 2008 the school needed to be replaced.
Rep. Valdez said he could easily see how outdated the facility is during a tour of the school. He noted that “the cafeteria roof is falling apart,” and the maintenance team cannot find parts for the school’s boiler that powers the heating system. He said that if the community doesn’t pass the initiative to fund the school now, “then when will kids get a better deal?”
“Kids are the future,” Valdez observed, and they need to be prepared for life’s challenges. People is what made Saguache a community, he noted, and “as Sam Houston said, ‘You either improve the lives of people or the systems they live under.’”
Sen. Crowder described Saguache as “a hidden jewel of the Valley” and said the town has a lot of potential. He called Mountain Valley School “the heart and soul of the community” and said the safety factors in the school alone are enough to justify rebuilding it.
In addition to building a new school, if voters approve, Crowder said parents and community members need to “work hard to improve education and get involved in education itself.” He told the audience that schools are a “place of pride,” they owe it to themselves to rebuild. Crowder also told Saguache residents he would do everything he can to help improve the funding situation for schools in the state.
At the end if the meeting some citizens said that if voters were not convinced before they saw the slideshow, they should be convinced of the safety issues at the school after viewing it. Some voiced optimism about a yes vote, but Sen. Crowder warned about getting too complacent.
Garoutte reminded those attending that the school was lucky to receive a bond waiver and have so little to fund. The original amount the school had to match to receive the BEST grant was $8 million. Other schools trying to pass initiatives for BEST grant funding in the Valley are asking for much more.
Another citizen answered that the initiative was the cheapest and best deal the school could hope for and therefore was the best choice for the school.