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Lincoln School of Science and Technology partners with Division of Wildlife for field trip

The Cañon City School Board voted unanimously Monday to pursue rebuilding two schools, adding at least one layer of certainty to a facilities discussion that has been largely hypothetical.

"What we're saying now is that this is the starting point," board treasurer Shad Johnson said before the 5-0 vote.

If all goes to the board's plan, the district would tear down and replace Washington Elementary School, rebuild a smaller CCMS and tear down all of the current middle school building, except its historic 1925 core.

The plan also would allow the district to address $14 million in other repairs throughout the district.

"This is the exciting point, where we have formulated a direction, and there is a mountain of work to be done," Johnson said.

For the district, that mountain of work will include convincing other people to approve their plan, namely a state board and, later, voters.

As a result of the board's decision, the district will apply for a Building Excellent Schools Today grant through the Colorado Department of Education. While the grant would cover the bulk of the construction costs, local property owners would still have to provide a 35 percent match in funds.

According to preliminary district estimates, the option would cost $40 million total and $14 million for taxpayers. In a previous interview, Superintendent George Welsh said that at the most expensive, it would cost $60 per year for a person living in a home with an assessed value of $200,000.

"It's a bigger ask of the community, but it's necessary," board president Larry Oddo said. "I think it's the most exciting option."

If the district got the grant, it would still have to get one more layer of approval from voters.

But before it gets there, the district is trying to make itself a good candidate for a BEST grant. And that's partially how it came to Monday's decision, which involves removing large chunks of CCMS.

Washington Elementary School.
Washington Elementary School. (Brandon Hopper / Daily Record)
Because the BEST grant is funded by taxes — mostly those generated by Colorado's recreational marijuana industry — the nine-person BEST board is more likely to award the grant if districts use all of their available space, Welsh previously said.

In the Cañon City School District, though, not all schools are at capacity, and the district doesn't expect much growth.

Since the facilities discussions began in July, the district has considered options, including closing Washington, to address that concern.

But because that option was unpopular with most Washington parents, the board decided to provide options that would eliminate space without closing entire schools.

"From a BEST application point of view, we felt that it would be the most attractive to the state in awarding that grant to us if we were to do a better job of removing excess square footage that we operate in the district," Oddo said.

Another option the district considered recently was Zach Holder's makeshift display table was filled with animal skulls, antlers and pelts.

Set up at one end of the Arkansas Riverwalk Trail on Friday, Holder, a game warden for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, had everything laid out for Lincoln School of Science and Technology's "Super Science Friday," a field trip that emphasized animals and their habitats.

Further downstream was Toni Pierce, Lincoln's PE teacher, who was teaching students about the relationship between predators and prey. After a brief explanation, Pierce set up a game in which a student, the predator, tried to spot her hiding classmates, the prey.

Third-graders at Lincoln School of Science and Technology draw pictures of fish at the school’s Super Science Friday.
Third-graders at Lincoln School of Science and Technology draw pictures of fish at the school's Super Science Friday. (Sara Knuth / Daily Record)
Even further down the river, technology teacher Dwayne Walter was talking with a group as they entered the trail, which was filled with seven stations, each teaching students about the riverwalk's habitat.

"I'm just trying to get them thinking about this zone, so that they're paying attention throughout the rest of the day, and trying to identify as many connections as they can as they go," Walter said.

And making those connections was the reason the school created the field trip.

Friday's trip, which included the entire elementary school, was the first of four Super Science Fridays Lincoln will host throughout the school year.

"I just think it's great to get these kids out here to this amazing resource we have out here," Walter said. "It's great to get out of school and into the community, and into this beautiful ecosystem we have running right through the middle of town."

Principal Tammy DeWolfe said Super Science Fridays were started five years ago, when the school transitioned from a traditional elementary school to one that focuses on science and technology.

But even though the school focuses on science, there are still a few academic standards gaps the school needs to fill science-wise; that's why the school introduced the science days, which receive a great deal of parental support, DeWolfe said.

Later this year, the school will also have days that emphasize space, using energy and the Earth.

But on Friday, the science day was all about local animals.

Holder's station, set up on a picnic table, had components from a big horn sheep, a bear, a mountain lion, a mule deer and an elk.

"Everything you see on this table, you can find right here on the river bottom," Holder told a group of fifth-graders.

The animals, he said earlier, are "just nice visuals for these kids."

Many of the animals on the table were confiscated from poachers. Others were hit by cars.

"When we have really nice specimens like this, we try to preserve those animals so that we can use them in education," Holder said. "It's just a really nice tool to use in education."

Fifth-grader Abrianna Lippis, 10, said she enjoyed getting out of the classroom.

"We get to walk and we get to eat lunch here, and we get to be in the fresh air," she said. "The riverwalk is really fun."

Holder said he was glad to see kids learning about local animals.

"I just want to commend the school for getting the kids out of the classroom and putting them into a setting like this so they can see really all of the beautiful things Cañon City and our wild areas offer," he said. "Places like this are really conducive to learning, and to adventure."

Sara Knuth: 719-276-7644, knuths@canoncitydailyrecord.comonly CCMS's vocational facility.

"Only shaving a few square feet off that building, didn't really accomplish what we thought was necessary from a capacity point of view," Oddo said, adding that he thinks it's important for the middle school students to have a new facility.

As the district moves forward, it will start consulting further with Colorado Springs-based companies CRP Architects and GE Johnson Construction Company. Oddo said the district will consult with the architects Tuesday.

"And a reminder to everyone is if we're not successful in our BEST grant application, the board's going to have to think about other options or, you know, going back and refining and taking a better shot at it," Welsh said. "It's no slam dunk, that's for sure."

The board emphasized that it has relied on community feedback to make this decision.

"I think it's important to remember that this option was developed based upon the feedback we received from our constituency, so we appreciate everybody's feedback," said Kristyn Econome, the board's assistant secretary and treasurer.

Johnson added: "we hope we can still count on that input and direction and guidance from our public."

Sara Knuth: 719-276-7644,