More than 200 residents of a Lone Tree neighborhood have raised objections to the Douglas County School District’s approval of the purchase of a nearby building that will serve as home to the district’s evening high school program.
A number of residents of the upscale Heritage Hills community, which backs up to the property at 9350 Teddy Lane, came to the Jan. 17 board of education meeting to voice their concerns. The vacant building that previously was a bank will be home to the district’s Eagle Academy, which has an enrollment of about 270 students.
Karen Short, a 16-year resident of the area, said having the school move in worries her.
“I am a neighbor to Teddy Lane,” she said. “The distance from the door to my backyard is less than the distance between home plate and first base on a baseball field — distance that can be traveled in 10 seconds,” Short said. “A night alternative high school, 81 feet from my residence, is completely and totally unacceptable.”
But interim Superintendent Erin Kane said the school and its students would not be disruptive to the community.
“I have read all the letters, I’ve heard all the feedback from Heritage Hills and I see the concerned residents here tonight,” Kane said. “I want to commit to them that we will bend over backward to work together to be good neighbors.”
Pam Ladnier, president of the Heritage Hills Homeowners Association, said she and her neighbors are concerned about increased traffic and noise from students coming and going in the evenings.
“The student lounge will look out into the backyards and homes only 70 feet away,” Ladnier said.
Al Talbert, another Heritage Hills resident, also voiced concerns about lack of privacy.
“They’ll be able to look into our house four nights a week from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. year-round,” Talbert said. “This is our backyard. This is where we play with our children, play with our dogs, barbecue and have friends and families over.”
More than 200 residents have signed a petition against moving the school to the Teddy Lane property, which is south of C-470 and west of I-25.
The school board voted 6-1 to purchase the building. Board member Wendy Vogel voted against the move, citing concerns about funding, other capital needs in the district and the impact on nearby residents.
The property is 26,000 square feet and is expected to cost the district $3.95 million to purchase and an estimated $3 million to renovate.
Eagle Academy, which has been housed at Highlands Ranch High School, is an afternoon and evening high school program that provides “an alternative path to earning a high school diploma,” according to the district website.
The district’s Master Capital Plan identifies the need for $29.3 million for new construction to meet the needs of alternative secondary school students. Eagle Academy’s current location at Highlands Ranch High has limited the school’s growth, according to the district.
Eagle Academy Principal Jeff Broeker defended his school and students and pledged to be “good neighbors.”
“I feel as good neighbors we could mitigate many of those things which were shared this evening in terms of privacy, in terms of our students and their whereabouts and how we will utilizing the facility,” Broeker said.
Colby Martell, Eagle Academy’s student body president, spoke to the board about the need for his school to have its own community.
“I have truly felt like a visitor,” he said. “I don’t really feel like I belong in that building, because it is Highlands Ranch.”
Eagle Academy English teacher Don Hoaglin said the feeling wasn’t limited to the students.
“When I first started at Eagle, I came in, had to borrow a room, borrow resources and I felt like a visitor in my own classroom,” Hoaglin said. “If an adult is feeling that, consider this: What is a 16-, 17-, 18- or 19-year-old student feeling as a perpetual visitor? By having our own site, we could do so many good and positive things.”
The district said it would work with Heritage Hills residents as it finalizes plans for the building.
DCSD’s Bridge North and Child Find programs, which are located in leased properties currently and cost the district $166,000 a year, will also be housed in the new building.
Bridge North is an extension of DCSD’s transition services. The program serves students 18-21 years of age with significant support needs in the areas of adult living skills and vocational goals.
Child Find is part of the district’s special education program and serves as a resource for families who are residents of Douglas County at no charge.
DCSD is expected to begin occupying the building in August, barring any delays or permitting issues.