Though major players from the University of Colorado and the Boulder Valley School District — including the leaders of University Hill Elementary School and New Vista High School — met all day on Monday, they didn't spend much time discussing the potential sale of Uni Hill to CU.
A preliminary proposal first discussed publicly in March included the sale of the elementary school to CU, with the school district then building two new schools on the New Vista property to accommodate the elementary students displaced from Uni Hill, to add middle school grade levels and to address space limitations at the high school.
"No decision has been made," Bruce Messinger, superintendent of the Boulder Valley School District, said Monday. "This is a courtship."
University officials, including a handful from CU's School of Education, and school district staffers spent the day on CU's East Campus discussing ways the two entities can forge a broader partnership with each other.
They brainstormed priorities, inspirational ideas and concerns over an enhanced partnership between CU and BVSD.
Boston-based education consultant Howard Teibel guided the conversation toward shared goals and values, learning outcomes and ways the two organizations could engage with each other.
But the real estate question kept popping up.
The principals of New Vista and Uni Hill attended the discussion, along with teachers and staffers from both of those schools.
No other schools were represented at the day-long meeting.
Also in attendance was Don Orr, chief facility officer for the school district, and David Kang, CU's new vice chancellor for infrastructure and safety. Among other things, Kang oversees the campus's real estate development plans, architecture, design and construction, the operation and maintenance of university facilities and long-range capital planning.
"The real estate issue ... there's no deal at all around real estate and let's keep our eye on the ball and keep talking about and looking at this 21st century partnership," said Chancellor Phil DiStefano.
Teibel asked the group how many people in their community felt the deal was already done and "they're just not telling us." A number of people in the room nodded their heads.
Messinger said the school district will likely know within a year, and possibly as soon as this fall, whether the real estate deal is viable.
But CU and BVSD have not yet had entered into talks about any deal.
"I want to make sure we move forward with this," said DiStefano, referring to the big-picture discussion about ways the two organizations can partner. "Bruce (Messinger) and I have not had a conversation about real estate, so when we do, we'll let people know."
Throughout the day, CU and BVSD leaders reiterated that they want to collaborate more, even if there is no deal on Uni Hill.
Kelly Fox, the university's chief financial officer, added that officials need to consider a number of factors before making a decision.
"It probably does feel like it is something that is very logical and yet it could happen or not," Fox said. "It actually isn't that straight forward. There actually isn't a path forward to making a real estate deal happen. We have the figure that out."
New Vista High School, housed in the former Baseline Middle School building at 700 20th St., was built in the 1950s and was designed for middle schoolers, which presents some challenges for students and teachers.
University Hill Elementary School, 956 16th St., was built in 1905 and is one of the district's oldest buildings. It was named a local landmark in 1998, according to the Boulder History Museum.
The school, which also includes a second, smaller building built in 1949, is located across Broadway from CU's main campus.
University Hill has a popular bilingual program, but the school has no room to grow at the current site, district officials have said. There's also interest in adding middle school grades.
CU officials have not said what they envision for the University Hill site.
Teachers, staffers, parents and students at New Vista and Uni Hill are feeling uneasy about the potential changes that would come with the real estate deal, leaders at those schools said.
School leaders asked for answers and information to take back to their communities, such as if public input would be considered on any real estate deal and who would get a seat at the table in real estate discussions.
Messinger said he hoped to send out information about the proposal before summer break.
New Vista and Uni Hill were slated for improvements through the $576.5 million capital construction bond issue approved by voters in 2014, though those plans are on hold during discussions between the school district and CU.
Officials said it would likely take three to five years before new schools are built, if the district sells Uni Hill to CU. BVSD would use the money from the sale of Uni Hill to help fund the new schools.
CU would potentially invest in the new New Vista campus and use it when school isn't in session.
Sarah Kuta: 303-473-1106, [email protected] or twitter.com/sarahkuta
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