Former Montezuma-Cortez High School Seeks Public Input On Its Future

Illustration of potential asbestos exposure in a building

Montezuma-Cortez High School (MCHS) is seeking the public’s opinion on the future of its building with all four options involving the removal of asbestos. Through an online survey hosted on the district’s website, respondents can select their favored option for the fate of the former high school.

The MCHS building originally dates back to 1909, formerly serving as a public senior high school for 721 students in grades 9-12. It was common for many schools to be built using the hazardous asbestos material back then. MCHS is part of the Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 and located at 418 S. Slingo St., Cortez, CO.

A task force of four subcommittees was created to come up with the four options. It includes district officials, local government officials, and members of the public who previously discussed the options in school board meetings.

“The idea for this [task force] is not to come up with a long-term plan, but we do want to explore options,” said Kemper Elementary Principal and Montezuma-Cortez RE-1 School District’s Executive Director of Facilities and School Safety, Jamie Haukeness. He added that neither district officials nor board members will get an absolute say in the outcome of the building.

The first option involves keeping the building and raising or finding funds to create district offices in it. (Right now they’re located at the Downey School at 400 N. Elm St.) School officials say the cost would be at least $500,000 to include installing fire doors that close off asbestos-ridden areas of the building, as well as other needed maintenance. According to RE-1 Finance Manager Wendy Everett, the district has not yet budgeted this into its finances.

Option two requires the district finding funds to remove the asbestos and demolish the former high school. Its cost equates to $1.8 to $2.5 million, which is much more expensive than the district’s current budget.

The third option involves removing the asbestos, demolishing the building, and then creating a stadium. The $1.8 million would be used to do this, yet it would only cover the abatement and removal, not the new stadium’s construction.

The last option piggybacks off the third. The $1.8 would go towards abatement and demolition and then another $1.5 million would be raised to construct the stadium.

All four options purposefully do not include having students back into the building to avoid asbestos exposure. RE-1 won a $22.7 million grant from Colorado State Department of Education’s Excellent Schools Today (BEST) in order to make this project happen. The grant was awarded based on the district officials’ application saying the building was not safe for students.

The task force subcommittees will investigate district finances, repurposing the retired MCHS, abating asbestos, demolishing the building, and long-term plans for the site next Thursday. Montezuma-Cortez School District RE-1 released the survey on Friday.