By Heath Urie Camera Staff Writer
Posted: 11/30/2010 09:45:30 PM MST
Mapleton Elementary School, which was shuttered by the Boulder Valley School District in 2003, is once again being considered as the potential site of an early childhood learning center.
Karen Daly, the school district's executive director of student success, told the Boulder City Council at its study session on youth issues Tuesday night that district representatives approached city officials last week to re-open discussions about what it would take to return the building to a center for learning.
"When we look at our options, it's one of the few that says there's nothing else to do with that facility," Daly said. "It would be a great use."
The idea of using the former school, at 840 Mapleton Ave., as a center for early childhood programs has been tossed around for years. Previous discussions have included the idea of health and dental screenings at the center, as well as general family services.
As recently as January, the City Council agreed that using Mapleton for early learning services should be among its priorities. But Daly said the high cost of renovating Mapleton remains a major barrier, and the city would have to work with Boulder Valley for the project to be a success.
In 2008, a coalition consisting of representatives of the school district, Boulder County, the city of Boulder and the Jared Polis Foundation completed a feasibility study that concluded converting the former school could be done.
Upgrading the 120-year-old building could cost between $2.1 million and $5.5 million, depending on how extensively the building is renovated. Officials said then that the center could provide "one-stop shopping" for many kids' needs, particularly for disadvantaged children or children with disabilities.
Daly said using Mapleton as an early learning center could help address one of the biggest challenges facing the district: a serious lack of preschools.
"We are facing a little bit of a dilemma in Boulder," she said, mostly because schools don't have the physical space to accommodate preschools.
But there is also some good news, she said, because voters last month approved Issue 3A. The property tax increase will allow the district to pour up to $5 million a year into special programs, including providing low-cost tuition for existing preschool programs.
"We will be able to pull in many, many more students that live in poverty," she said.
Next year, the increase will cost the owner of a $350,000 home about $128.
Councilwoman Crystal Gray said it's good for the school district and the city to begin talking seriously about finding a use for Mapleton.
"Unfortunately, we've sold off our schools and closed them in Boulder," she said. "But we still have Mapleton."
Councilman George Karakehian agreed.
"Mapleton would be exciting to reconsider," he said, adding that early education "pays off many years down the road."
Ken Roberge, president of the Boulder Valley school board, said the board remains supportive of using Mapleton for early childhood programs, which he said gets taxpayers the "best bang for the buck."
He said it's now a matter of letting city staffers and district officials hammer out a workable plan for the site.
"I think this is all very exciting," he said.
Tuesday night was the council's first full-scale discussion about issues affecting children and teens since 2006.
Since then, officials say, the level of children living in poverty in the city has increased to nearly one in 10 -- the highest rate in a decade.
Some council members asked city staffers come up with a report on how much the city invests in children's programs, to help the council better evaluate future funding decisions.
Read more: Boulder's Mapleton school again eyed for early childhood center