Learning center

Union Colony Elementary adds library and outdoor learning center

Not all of the money approved in the Greeley-Evans 6 School District’s $395 million bond issue in 2019 went to the 27 schools operated by the school district.

District 6 licenses six charter schools, and those schools received $13.2 million from the bond issuance for repairs, renovations, safety and security, and instructional upgrades.

A bond issue is a way to raise funds through an increase in residential and commercial property taxes. The money is used for major capital projects. School districts issue bonds to finance the construction of new schools, as well as major repairs and renovations.

An education upgrade is exactly what Union Colony Schools did with bond money at its 40,000 square foot elementary building in Evans. The public charter school, with 340 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, is currently adding about 2,400 square feet of indoor and outdoor learning space with its $1.25 million in bond money.

Union Colony also has a second charter authorized by District 6 – a preparatory building for grades six through twelfth off 20th Street in Greeley. Union Colony Schools executive director Jemiah Fowler said money from the prep school bonds was used to complete the removal of asbestos from the original building.

The Union Colony Elementary project will create an indoor library and learning space with over 5,000 books and an outdoor learning center to integrate STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education opportunities.

“We wanted to use it (the bond money) for something that was sustainable and had a long-term impact,” Fowler said. “We try to create practical spaces and project-based learning.”

Jemiah Fowler, executive director of Union Colony Schools, left, talks with Thom Dobeck of Symmetry Builders in Dacono about the company’s construction project at Union Colony Elementary Thursday, March 24, 2022 in Evans. Union Colony Elementary is using its $1.25 million from Greeley-Evans School District 6 bond in 2019 to build a 2,400 square foot library and outdoor learning center. (Anne Delaney/journalist)

Construction began in the spring of 2021 and the new facilities are expected to open in August. Over time, the outdoor learning area could include a community greenhouse. The school is applying for a grant.

“It’s engaging and exciting for kids,” Fowler said in late March, overlooking the space that will eventually be the outdoor learning space with large garage doors. “And families can come and learn. We are trying to move it around a bit to make it more community friendly.

The elementary school is using approximately $500,000 in federal COVID-19 relief funds to improve the use of space in the building. Fowler said the school will create space for support staff from North Range Behavioral Health and District 6 when they visit the school.

They are professionals who help elementary students at Union Colony with any special assistance such as physical or occupational therapy, an individualized education program, or behavioral accommodation.

The school is also creating space for three new second-floor classrooms, Fowler said, with federal money from the Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Fund, known as ESSER dollars,

The fund was created as part of the Education Stabilization Fund in the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, according to information from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Congress earmarked approximately $13.2 billion of the $30.75 billion allocated to the Education Stabilization Fund through the CARES Act for the ESSER Fund in March 2020.

“It’s been a big conversation for a long time,” Fowler said of the need for space at school. “All the support staff coming in, and we didn’t have enough room for them to do their jobs. I think we use the money wisely and get a lot for the amount we spend.