Vista Charter School Opens Its Doors at a New Location
by Kati O'Hare
Aug 13, 2012 | 3301 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
LEED GOLD – The new Vista Charter School building in Montrose is LEED Gold certified – complete with a screen reporting on solar power collection and use in the hallway. Its main classroom boasts all new furniture, sensory lighting, and projectors and screens that can be used with iPads. (Photo by Kati O'Hare)
LEED GOLD – The new Vista Charter School building in Montrose is LEED Gold certified – complete with a screen reporting on solar power collection and use in the hallway. Its main classroom boasts all new furniture, sensory lighting, and projectors and screens that can be used with iPads. (Photo by Kati O'Hare)
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MONTROSE – When school starts this month for the approximately 170 students who attend Vista Charter School in Montrose, it will be in a brand new setting.

Vista's new 17,000-square foot school building off of Niagara Road features tall ceilings, large windows and brightly colored walls, but it's in the details that this new LEED-certified facility truly shines.

The entire project cost about $5.5 million, $3.9 million of that coming from a Colorado Department of Education Building Excellent Schools Today grant.

As part of that grant, the building had to meet LEED – Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design – standards, in everything from parking and plugs for electric vehicles to bike racks to a geothermal system.

As you walk into one of its several classrooms, lights overhead automatically turn on, their brightness depending on the amount of light coming through the windows. As you leave, they shut off.

There are sensors on the windows, so if one is left open, the cooling and heating system makes adjustments, sending a text message off to staff in case there’s a problem, said Scott Stryker, co-owner of Ridgway Valley Enterprises, who oversaw the building project.

On the roof of the school are solar panels, and the energy they are capturing is seen on a display in the school's hallway. At noon on Monday, Aug. 3 – during the school's open house for the community – the panels were capturing 14.76 kilowatts of power, according to the display reading.

A geothermal systems takes advantage of the consistent ground temperatures to heat and cool the building.

Each classroom is equipped with projectors and a screen connected to teachers' iPads.

"I use to have to wheel an AV cart around and hook it up if I wanted to show something," said teacher Marty Fevrier. "Now, it will just connect to my iPad."

The grant provided all new technology for the school, as well as new furniture – which gives the school a crisp look and college-like feel.

The new facility also gives teachers the opportunity to expand programs and services.

One teacher is planning cooking classes that will utilize the school's teaching kitchen, using produce grown in the outdoor greenhouse on the west side of the building. Fevrier plans to provide weights and yoga classes, and is working to get a volleyball program approved that will use the lawn space outside. There also is an outdoors basketball court.

In the school's east wing, separated from the entrance and west wing by design, will be home to the Montrose County School District's Expulsion Intervention Program, which for the first year will address junior high school students' issues, in an effort to reach the students before the problems worsen, in high school.

There also is a drop-in center, open to community organizations for meetings or presentations. The space also is conducive to such things as online courses and web conferencing, said Vista Principal Beth Sass.

This area includes offices that can be used for Montrose County Health and Human Service and probation visits.

"The kids are here, so that is the best time for these organizations to meet with them," Sass said.

Having such a facility is a dream come true for the school's board and founders, as well as for former principal Coni Wilson, who spent years saving school money for the project by applying for grants to offset other costs, such as rent and utilities.

Only utilities will need to be paid at the new school, Sass said.

"It's awesome. I wish I had a better word for it – but what a tremendous opportunity," she said.



Kati O'Hare at kohare@watchnewspapers.com

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