The Pueblo West View

Swallows to build new gymnasium, commons

It’s been talked about for years, but now some work is under way, and soon Swallows Charter Academy will have a brand new gymnasium, commons and kitchen building on the campus.

It will serve not only the students at the school, but the entire community.

“We are so excited,” said Dr. Cindy Compton, director of Swallows Charter Academy.

“This will give our students every opportunity to have the educational advantage they’d have at other schools. Our students and teachers are amazing already and high-achieving academically, so this will add a new later and a greater sense of pride and community.”

The main building of Swallows Charter Academy is a converted grocery store, and through the years it’s been modified to work for students, but it’s certainly not ideal. The common area in the building is used for anything and everything, including lunch service.

Because there is only a warming kitchen area at the school, all food – both breakfast and lunch – is brought by vans from Pueblo West High School and served to the students from portable carts.

There is no gymnasium, so students utilize the outdoors for physical education when weather permits, or are stuck in a classroom for the rest. Sports teams at the academy cannot play home games, for example, because there is no “home.”

“I think having the (improved) athletic program will be a big draw for us,” Compton said. “We’ve always had to travel for games, so we’re excited to have home games. And we can have things like graduation, dances and more.”

The new building will sit between the elementary and the middle/high school buildings on the SCA campus, oriented at an angle toward Civic Center Drive. Master plans for the school include reorienting the rest of the campus through remodeling and new buildings so that the front entrance of the school is on Civic Center and no McCulloch.

The building will be about 17,000 square feet and includes a full-sized gym, locker rooms, commons area, scratch-cooking kitchen that can provide healthy, fresh meals and more. The gym will seat 520 people.

Before students returned to school this month, the playground equipment at the academy was relocated to the opposite side of the school, making way for the new construction. Compton said the groundbreaking will hopefully be before the end of August, and it’s hoped the building will be completed by January or early February.

“We hope we can have some home basketball games in the gym this year!” Compton said. As of this year, SCA is now part of an officially sanctioned Colorado High School Activities Association league, the 2A Santa Fe League. Opponents in the league include Rocky Ford, Fowler, Las Animas and Rye.

Funding for the project comes from a $3.8 million bond, secured through the Colorado Educational and Cultural Facilities Authority. The money will be paid back over the course of 30 years – “Or sooner!” Compton said.

Sponsorships and donations are also encouraged, she said. The Swallows Charter Academy Educational Foundation has put together a list of items that can be donated or sponsored, and there will be a “donor wall of giving” with engraved bricks at the new building to honor those who contribute.

Compton said she believes the community will be excited to see the future for the academy, and noted that the building will be available to the community as well, including the Pueblo West Parks and Recreation Department.

Swallows officially purchased a portion of land from the Pueblo West Metropolitan District, the land which the middle and high school building has occupied (and the academy has leased from the Metro District) since 2008.

Once the purchase was complete, the school began securing the bond funds and moving ahead with plans.

The gym and commons building is phase one of the school’s overall master plan, which eventually includes construction of a new building for the middle and high school classrooms, to replace the modular buildings that are in use.

Those buildings have been in place since 2008 and “have a shelf life,” as they are not meant to be permanent buildings for a school.

Swallows will again apply for the BEST grant (Building Excellent Schools Today) in December. Grants are awarded in May, and if Swallows receives money it would fund the next phase of the master plan.

BEST, part of the Colorado Department of Education, provides an annual amount of funding in the form of competitive grants to be used for construction of new schools as well as general construction and renovation of existing school systems and structures.

The grants are based on safety, security and technology.

Compton said the school’s BEST grant application is being revised from the past two years to include a reduced amount of money requested, since the gym/commons building is now being funded through the CECFA bond.

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The Pueblo West View