Demand drives expansion at Dawson

LAFAYETTE — Dawson School’s expansion and renovations are still a few years off. But the increased demand to enroll at the school, which is driving the projects, is present now.
That’s why the private school off of U.S. Highway 287 between Longmont and Lafayette isn’t waiting for the new digs to welcome more students.

“We wanted more families to have more access to our educational program,” said George Moore, Dawson’s head of school.

Not to say the expansion isn’t moving ahead. In October, the school earned conditional approval from the Boulder County commissioners to add 24,521 square feet of building space at its 93-acre campus.

The conditions include maintaining the school’s current levels of water and energy use, as well as limiting the amount of traffic going on and off campus each day. But they also include removing some buildings as well.

Previous county dockets had approved the school to have a total of 212,373 square feet. It actually has 218,564 now. So before any building can begin, one condition set by the commissioners is that the school must either remove roughly 6,200 square feet or purchase transferrable development credits to account for that square footage.

Moore said there are two old faculty housing buildings, one of which is being used for offices that will be demolished to get Dawson close to where it needs to be.

“We will be able to get below that 212,373 before we start any new construction,” Moore said.

The new construction is widespread across the campus.

It includes repurposing a 10,188-square-foot storage building, tearing it down and replacing it with a classroom building twice the size. There will also be a 6,758-square-foot expansion to the school’s arts center, providing a larger theater to accommodate a larger upper school and adding a couple of classrooms.

A 3,064-square-foot expansion of the athletic center will add some needed space to the training room and weight and fitness center. A new solar-heated outdoor pool will be added near the gym, replacing the current pool that is near the arts center.

A 1,557-square-foot outdoor learning pavilion and 1,500-square-foot expansion and renovation of Henderson Hall, the school’s main administration and high school building, round out the expansion efforts.

“We don’t have a huge sense of urgency to build in the next couple of years, but we anticipate building in the next three to five years,” Moore said.

Moore said the school, founded in 1970 as Colorado Junior Republic, does not yet have a total cost estimate for the expansion. He said the school would run a capital campaign to pay for the additions.

As part of the expansion approval, Dawson also received go-ahead from the county — pending submittal of a development agreement — to up its kindergarten through 12th grade enrollment this semester from a cap of 460 to 466 to allow for a few kids who were looking to enroll mid-year. The school also received approval to increase the enrollment cap to 540 going forward from next fall.

Not all of that growth will come at once, but Moore said demand is growing at the school, where tuition runs about $21,000 per year. He said with current facilities the school could accommodate enrollment of about 500 provided it was distributed properly among the grade levels. Over time, as enrollment climbs to 540, about 10 teachers would be added to maintain the school’s student-to-staff ratio of about 8-to-1.

The demand, Moore said, stems from a growing student population in Boulder County and surrounding areas as well as the programs at the school itself.

“Kids thrive here, and I think we provide that safe academic atmosphere that a lot of parents are looking for,” Moore said.

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