Littleton Public Schools kicks off largest-ever bond projects

Old Ames Elementary first step in massive effort to upgrade district facilities


Mallet-wielding school board members took the first swings at the walls of the old Ames Elementary School in Centennial on June 13, officially kicking off a series of projects under Littleton Public Schools’ largest-ever bond.

As the dust settled, Superintendent Brian Ewert took a few extra swings at a stubborn shelf, which eventually gave way.

“Boy, I hope our new schools are built that tough,” Ewert quipped.

The $298 million bond, approved by voters in November and by far the largest in the district’s history, will see Ames, Newton Middle School and Franklin Elementary schools demolished and replaced, a Career and Technical Education center outfitted adjacent to Littleton High School, and renovations and upgrades to numerous schools and athletic facilities in the district.

The district expects to wrap up the current slate of projects by 2022.

Old school, new school

Ames, near Colorado Boulevard and Dry Creek Road, is among the district’s first major bond projects. Ames will be demolished in phases over the next year, with the new, two-story elementary school slated to open in the fall of 2021.

The demolition and remediation of the old school is expected to cost $7 million, said Diane Doney, the district’s assistant superintendent, who is overseeing much of the bond work. The construction of the new school is expected to cost $28 million.

Ames, built in 1963, was one of two LPS schools shuttered in 2008 due to declining enrollment and a budget crunch, Ewert said. The other closed school, Whitman Elementary, has since become the district’s alternative high school.

An influx of young families into the neighborhood in the years since prompted the district to pursue returning an elementary school to the site, Ewert said last fall.

The new school will incorporate a slew of modern design elements, said Kevin Sullivan, a principal with MOA Architecture, which is planning the school.

Though plans for the school are still preliminary, the design presented at the groundbreaking ceremony on June 13 calls for a series of wings radiating from a central hub. Outdoor classrooms would be located in the courtyards between wings.

“This is a collaborative effort between us, the district, teachers, parents and students,” Sullivan said.

The design incorporates lots of natural light, Sullivan said, and rooms and corridors are designed for versatile uses. The building will feature far greater security and energy efficiency than the district’s old schools, Sullivan said.

The preschool currently housed at Ames will be shifted to a new temporary wing at Highland Elementary, Doney said.

Highland will eventually move its elementary students to Franklin Elementary, Doney said, with the entire building becoming a preschool. Students will be housed in the old Franklin Elementary while its replacement is built.

Work progressing

Though Ames is the first big-ticket project, other bond projects are already underway at other schools, said Terry Davis, the district’s director of operations, maintenance and construction.

Ground was broken in May on a new artificial turf fields at Heritage and Arapahoe high schools, Davis said, with similar work expected to start soon at Euclid Middle School. Each high school will eventually get two artificial turf fields, and each middle school will get one.

Work is also being done in the kitchens at Powell Middle School and Moody, Runyon and Twain elementary schools, Davis said, including installing new freezers and reworking serving lines to flow faster.

Other projects include revamping Arapahoe’s HVAC system, repairing the roof of Littleton Preparatory Charter School and improving access for people with disabilities at several schools, Davis said.

“When you think about your first year under a bond like this, you’re talking about things that are easy successes without a lot of design and engineering,” Davis said.

Some elements of the bond planning have seen changes since they were announced, Davis said.

A planned “junior stadium” at Newton Middle School, at Arapahoe Road and Colorado Boulevard, has been moved from the property’s east end to the west end to be farther from residences, Davis said, partly in response to neighborhood concerns.

The district is still waiting to take possession of a pair of buildings near Littleton High School that will become a sprawling Career and Technical Education center, Davis said. The current occupants, a car dealership, have a lease allowing them to stay in the building for another year or two.

Many thanks

Ewert said he’s pleased with the initial progress of the bond projects, though he’s eager to make sure the district gets it right.

“Sometimes I feel like a kid in a candy shop, but I also want to make sure we do all this right the first time to provide beautiful, effective learning spaces for future generations,” Ewert said.

Ewert said he’s overflowing with gratitude toward the groups that are helping bring the bond to fruition: the community that voted to approve the bond, the bond oversight committee that is serving as a watchdog of the funds, the long-range planning committee that continues to work on planning projects and priorities, and community stakeholders who are providing input on plans.

The bond projects are welcome investments in the future of a historically high-performing district, said Board of Education President Jack Reutzel moments after pounding away at the wall at Ames.

“Our teachers and administrators have done a remarkable job teaching 21st century skills in buildings that are often from earlier in the last century,” Reutzel said. “Strong communities make strong schools, and vice versa. Knocking this wall down is a first step in something that will last for decades to come.”


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