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After negotiating a lease for the 2019-2020 school year, the Buena Vista School District has decided to forego its use of Colorado Mountain College Buena Vista campus and bring its preschool program back into town.

“It was a big decision for us to move out there and separate our programs,” said BVSD Superintendent Lisa Yates. “What we thought, long-term was that if our whole program was out there it would be good.”

This past school year BVSD was operating a preschool program out of a portion of the CMC campus due to high enrollment of pre-schoolers. Yates says this decision not to place pre-schoolers at the campus in no way affects CMC’s program offerings to students in Buena Vista. Students will still have access to CMC’s post-secondary courses.

The BVSD’s preschool program will move back into town and operate out of existing BVSD buildings. Yates says the most viable option is to use extra space in the district administration building. Currently, the Boys and Girls Club is meeting in that space but will be relocated to another building.

“The Boys and Girls Club is pursuing options with Darren Patterson Christian Academy,” said Buena Vista Board of Education President Suzette Hachmann. “We will find a place for the Boys and Girls Club within our own facilities if we need to.”

With a ballooning preschool enrollment during the 2018-2019 school year, the BVSD entered into a no-cost lease with CMC to use a portion of CMC’s Buena Vista campus for preschool programming.

A student completes a drawing during preschool class at CMC. (Photo courtesy of Buena Vista School District)

“Buena Vista School District was leasing half of our building this past academic year and it worked out really well. We offered a no-cost lease because we wanted to support the community,” said Rachel Pokrandt, CMC’s vice president and dean of the CMC Leadville and Chaffee County campuses. “The school board reached out and wanted to take over the entire building [this year] because they have quite the need for space.”

According to Pokrandt, CMC offered a no-cost lease for the 2019-2020 school year. However, the BVSD was unable to assume the maintenance responsibilities and utility costs.

Hachmann says the BVSD did consider purchasing the building from CMC instead of continuing with the rental option. “We made an offer, but It became clear that we weren’t going to be able to purchase the building,” said Hachmann. “It made more sense to move the preschool and work on a longer-term plan for the preschool.”

After the purchasing options fell through, the BVSD looked at renting the entire building. “It became clear that CMC was asking us to take on more cost, expense, and risk throughout the lease term [than the prior year]. It’s not what we were expecting, although it was a no-cost lease,” explained Hachmann.

According to the school district, they estimated the costs of maintenance and utilities at $30,000 for the year. While using CMC’s space allowed the BVSD to provide for its extensive list of preschool families, the sense was the monetary commitment was too much to maintain.

“Bottom line for us is money. What I originally believed to be a situation where it would be mutually beneficial for our program’s growth and our financial [situation] is not where we ended up,” explained Yates. “The one-year lease became riskier for us. [We] appreciate the no-cost lease as far as additional rental fees, but utilities and maintenance of the property alone was estimated at $30,000. There was additional risk of ownership of the building and it didn’t make sense for us to take it on for the year.”

While the City of Salida may consider a ballot question this year setting up a CMC tax annexation for the Salida School District, Pokradnt says their commitment to Buena Vista’s students remains unwavering. CMC will continue to offer its classes in Buena Vista for Buena Vista’s students.

“We are still in a partnership with BV schools. Their students are our students,” stated Pokradnt. “We are going to run our classes in their communities so it’s convenient for their dual-enrollment students. [The site] isn’t solidified yet, but [classes] will be in district-owned facilities.”

Regarding what CMC might do with the CMC Buena Vista campus building if the BVSD does not operate it is uncertain. “We currently don’t have any plans. We are dedicated to using the building in the future for something that is positive for the community,” said Pokrandt. “It’s really important for the community to know that classes are still running in Buena Vista. They just won’t be physically in that building.”

Yates says she and the BVSD echo those CMC’s sentiments, adding that the school district remains steadfast in the desire to continue a relationship with CMC.

“I want to be clear: we are still very much interested in what CMC offers. We value the post-secondary education that they offer our students. We want to work to make sure that continues in the same way without there being a facility here,” explained Yates. “The negotiation of the facility was separate from any programming [discussions]. We will continue to pursue dual-enrollment access for our students.”

Hachmann supports Yates’ position and solidified the Board of Education’s position with similar comments.

“We have tried and are trying to partner with CMC,” said Hachmann. “Their services are valuable, dual enrollment is valuable to us. We would like to continue to partner with them. This is in no way a break in relationship with CMC.”

Meanwhile, the BVSD is actively pursuing the means to expand its preschool program. “We are working to find a place to expand our preschool,” said Hachmann. “We’re doing that through property acquisition and by updating our master facility plan.”