By Scott Prater
Pete Sims, Tierra Vista Communities project director, handed over a giant check for nearly $35,000 March 17, signaling the completion of a project more than four years in the making.
Ellicott School District 22 Superintendent, H. Terry Ebert accepted the check during the school district’s monthly board meeting to the flash of cameras and applause from district officials and parents.
Though these kinds of ceremonies are usually reserved for contributions of the charitable type, this one had no connection to philanthropy. According to Mr. Sims, TVC was simply following through on its previous commitment to fund construction of an expansion to the Ellicott Elementary School.
“From the very beginning we’ve had a great working relationship with the local Schriever Air Force Base people and Tierra Vista Communities,” Mr. Ebert said. “They saw the potential impact to our school district. We’ve had great conversations and communication with them and they’ve worked tirelessly to make the addition to our elementary school possible. Without their support, it may not have happened. I can’t say enough about how the leadership there has been beneficial. We’ve now worked with three wing commanders, Brig. Gen. Teresa Djuric, Brig. Gen. Cary Chun and Col. Wayne Monteith. The commanders and their teams have all been great to work with.”
The project dates back to 2007, when Air Force leaders decided Schriever would be best served by on-base housing. They knew dependent children would need somewhere relatively close by to attend school.
The rolling tundra of Colorado’s eastern foothills supplies the base with quite a few advantages: security, line of site and room for expansion to mention a few, but the isolation provided by at least eight miles of ranch land also presented some challenges.
The nearest school district was located several miles east of the base and served a rural town of roughly 7,000. Meanwhile, Ellicott School District 22 lacked the infrastructure needed to handle a big jump in enrollment, and though its administrators reacted enthusiastically to the news, they too knew a difficult challenge lay ahead.
Meanwhile, Tierra Vista Communities LLC, the partnership formed between the Air Force and private developer Lend Lease for the development of military housing at Schriever, Peterson and Los Angeles Air Force Bases, assumed ownership of all the military family housing at each of the bases that same year.
As Lend Lease began planning the construction of Schriever’s first on-base homes, TVC, AF leaders and Ellicott school district officials agreed that an expansion of the district’s elementary school would be necessary to meet the demands of future enrollment.
“Based on accepted statistics, you have to plan for .7 to .9 children for every house hold,” Mr. Ebert said. “So we anticipated that 200 kids would come out of that housing development.”
Construction crews broke ground on a $2 million, ten-classroom, 10,000 square-foot expansion during February 2008 and the structure was completed prior to the 2008-2009 school year — as it turned out, $35,000 under budget.
And that’s where March 17’s check for $35,000 comes in.
Mr. Sims inferred that funding was already committed to the district well before construction began at the school. So, any left over funds would ultimately go to the district to use however it saw fit.
“I’m excited to turn over nearly $35,000 in excess funds from our project to the district,” he said. “I’m sure that in these difficult economic times this will be a great additional benefit.”
Mr. Ebert said the district is undecided on how it will use the unanticipated funds, but since all of the planned 242 homes at Schriever are now occupied by families, the district has seen a large influx of elementary-age students. So the funds will be put to good use.
According to Mr. Ebert, enrollment jumped by roughly 100 students this school year, and the district expects to see increasing enrollment as Schriever’s base populace turns over, since some families currently housed on base were transferred from Peterson AFB.
“We are grateful for the strong partnership we have with both Tierra Vista
Communities and the Ellicott School District, said. Col. Wayne Monteith, 50th Space Wing commander. “The partnership goes a long way towards helping us take care of our families as we continue to grow our community out here on the plains.”
The original elementary school can’t be considered a relic. It was constructed in 2001 and was designed with expansion in mind. Still, Mr. Ebert said modern design and technology makes the addition stand out.
Mr. Sims saw the new wing when he drove to Ellicott to deliver the actual bank check.
“I was able to tour the addition we created together with the Ellicott school district a couple of weeks ago and I am thrilled with how it turned out,” he said. “I am certain that this addition will meet the needs of all school children who are taught in this great district.”