By Amy Bounds
POSTED: 06/06/2016 09:24:24 PM MDT | UPDATED: ABOUT 7 HOURS AGO
Simp Vinnakota, 3, left, and Kurt Fashing, 3, dig a hole together during Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony in Erie. (Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer)
Top: Maksim Staroscik, 3, digs a hole as part of the Boulder Valley School District groundbreaking ceremony for the new PK-8 school located in the Flatiron Meadows neighborhood in Erie. For more photos of the groundbreaking go to www.dailycamera.com Jeremy Papasso/ Staff Photographer June 6, 2016
Future students swarmed over the field where Boulder Valley’s first Erie school will sit, grabbing shovels and enthusiastically digging through piles of dirt to help with Monday’s official groundbreaking.
The new school is set to open in the fall of 2017 on 15 acres in the Flatiron Meadows neighborhood, adjacent to an 8-acre city park site.
“You all are going to be a big part of making the school as wonderful as it’s going to be,” school board member Jennie Belval said at the groundbreaking.
The 100,000-square-foot campus, designed for 750 students, is expected to cost about $40 million and is part of the district’s $576.5 million construction package that was approved by voters in 2014.
Brent Caldwell, now the principal at Boulder’s Heatherwood Elementary, will lead the new school. He starts his new assignment in July and will spend the 2016-17 school year getting the school ready to open.
The plan is to open with preschool through seventh grade, adding eighth grade the next year, and to include all of the Boulder Valley side of Erie in the attendance boundary — though an official boundary still must be approved by the school board.
Now, Erie students are assigned to attend Lafayette Elementary and Angevine Middle School.
The new school’s design has a cafeteria and gathering space as the “heart” that also connects outside, to a courtyard and amphitheater. Up a wide, carpeted staircase, there’s a curiosity center, or library, and a small “treehouse” space.
Around those main features are learning communities of about 150 students each that group two grades together. Those learning communities include four classroom spaces, two small group spaces and two flexible studios.
Design details include lots of sliding doors to open or close up spaces and a focus on daylight, fresh air and energy efficiency.
At the groundbreaking, both Erie Mayor Tina Harris and Superintendent Bruce Messinger noted the “bumpy” path to getting the site approved.
Because of the possibility of oil and gas drilling on an adjacent property, the district considered looking for another location and delaying opening.
But the school board decided in March to go forward at the current site after approving an agreement with Anadarko Petroleum Corp. The agreement sets conditions that include drilling only when the school isn’t occupied.
“We appreciate the Erie community sticking with us,” Messinger said.
John Buhr, who has a 20-month-old and a 4-month-old and can see the school from his backyard, said the possibility of a future gas well near the school isn’t ideal. But he added that he’s hoping that either drilling won’t happen or technology will improve to allow for a different extraction method.
“It’s a little bit of a gamble, but we were really glad to have it approved,” he said, noting there are more than 20 kids under the age of 8 just on their street.
Courtney Packard brought her 4-year-old, who will be in the school’s first kindergarten class, and 2-year-old.
“It’s a fun opportunity to have them be a part of their new school,” she said. “We’re definitely excited for it. We’re glad to see it under construction.”
Toy Herring, who teaches at Centaurus and lives nearby, came to check out the site with her two boys, who are in high school.
“We’ve lived in Orchard Glen for 16 years,” she said. “The new school is in our neighborhood and district. It’s community and family.”
Along with future families and neighbors, teachers hoping to work at the school also attended.
“I would absolutely love to work here and be a part of the project,” said Stacy Bush, a Boulder Valley kindergarten teacher who lives in the neighborhood and has a 2-year-old.