Big projects, like moving a school grade, have lots of little steps

Column by Michael Alcorn
Posted 9/18/18

Author's note: It should be noted that, in the interval between this column being written and it appearing in print, the middle school in question has proactively dedicated staff to solving somebody …

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Big projects, like moving a school grade, have lots of little steps

Posted

Author's note: It should be noted that, in the interval between this column being written and it appearing in print, the middle school in question has proactively dedicated staff to solving somebody else’s infrastructure problem so that their kids remain safe. I’m sure there’s a better use for their time, but kudos to them.

For a few summers, when I wore a younger man’s clothes, I worked for my father-in-law, the electrician. And one of the things I learned during that time is just how many steps it takes to complete a real project — takes a lot of planning. A commercial property, for instance, requires time for the wall crew to do their thing, then the electrical people can cut their outlets, then the paint people, then the carpets, then the inspection, then… It’s a lot of moving parts to account for.

It was a lesson I put to use once when we were retasking a room in our house to make it a home office. At first glance, it seemed simple: just moving some furniture and voila! But, actually, there was putting the old furniture and clothes somewhere else; new electrical lines; a phone line; not to mention building up around a closet so it didn’t seem like a closet any more. And, if I do say so myself, it was a great office … until we needed it for a nursery.

C’est la vie!

The point is, big projects take time, because there’s a lot of steps, and there’s a lot you don’t know. Especially when it comes to infrastructure.

Take road projects, for instance. I know it seems like any little repaving job takes much longer than it should. But you have to consider how traffic has to be diverted, if sewage lines or utilities need reinforcing, and a hundred other things that, well, we don’t know. I guess that’s why I would urge everybody to have patience with the project at 72nd and Indiana: it’s not just widening roads. It’s building a bigger bridge over an immovable waterway, it’s utilities improvements, it’s trying to “anticipate” problems from the last 15 years as well as the new ones that are coming because of Leyden Rock and Candelas. No wonder it’s been in the planning stages since 2013.

Which is why it is so frustrating to me what is happening around some of our middle schools right now. Yes, Jeffco made the decision last year to move sixth graders up to the middle schools and they kind of anticipated some of the issues involved by initiating construction projects and technology upgrades.

But nobody had enough time to think about the infrastructure. Have you driven past a local middle school at school start time?

The four Arvada middle schools not named Moore were all built in the aftermath of Sputnik, when kids were expected to walk three miles uphill both ways in a driving snowstorm to get to school. Accordingly, the streets around these schools were not designed to accommodate a great deal of traffic. But, suddenly, we now have 50 percent more students coming to each middle school every morning. One of those schools is on a street that is one lane each direction with no sidewalks and a shoulder that, as a bike rider, scares the heck out of me because, for the bulk of its traverse, it is about 9 inches wide. To make it worse, the south side of the street is, technically, unincorporated Jefferson County but the north side is the City of Arvada, and neither jurisdiction wants to take responsibility for the street. Oh, and by the way, almost all of the students live north of the school and have to make their way across the street to get to the school — without a crosswalk. 400 cars and a dozen busses all trying to deliver 1000 11-13 year olds in a 10 minute window to a facility with one entrance creates, how you say, issues.

Listen, I like “winging it” as much as the next guy (as is obvious to anybody who has been reading me for a while). But big projects take thought, and we should expect our leaders to take the time to do that.

Michael Alcorn is a teacher and writer who lives in Arvada with his wife and three children. His novels are available at MichaelJAlcorn.com. His opinions are not necessarily those of Colorado Community Media.

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