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Crowded Falcon District 49 gets land for new school

May 2, 2017 Updated: May 3, 2017 at 7:02 am
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The Board of El Paso County Commissioners approved a measure on Tuesday that will give rapidly growing local school district land for a new elementary school.

Commissioners voted unanimously in a 3 to 0 vote to transfer ownership of a roughly 12½-acre plot of land just south of Falcon Middle School to Falcon School District 49.

The land, at Londonderry Drive and Towner Avenue in Falcon, will be used for to build a new $23 million elementary school - one of two that voters approved in November when they passed a mill levy override. The ballot question did not increase taxes, but will provide funding to build the new schools. Funds generated by the measure will also pay for other school improvements, including additions to Falcon, Sand Creek and Vista Ridge high schools.

The first of the new schools, which will be in the district's Falcon zone, is scheduled to open Fall 2018. Construction could begin as soon as July, said Matt Meister, a D-49 spokesman. The second, slated to open at the beginning of the 2019 school year in Banning Lewis Ranch, which currently has a charter school.

D-49, one of the state's fastest growing district, has faced issues with overcrowding in recent years due to the area's rising population. The district's elementary schools are built to house about 600 students, but more than 800 children attend some of them, including Ridgeveiw, Meridian Ranch and Woodmen Hills, Meister said. The district has used modular buildings as a "short-term solution" to supplement classroom space, Meister said. They've also had to move students from more crowded schools to other schools in the district.

"As more families move in, we need more space to educate students. Our voters understood that," Meister said.

Between the 2011-12 and 2016-17 school years, the district has grown from 15,063 students to 20,834 students, increasing its ranking from the state's 18th largest school district to the 14th largest.

Commissioner Mark Waller, who represents the Falcon area, said he expects the growth to continue. Additional classroom space is always good news, he added.

"Any time you build a new school, that's going to take pressure off the others in terms of overcrowding and capacity issues," he said.

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