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District breaks ground on Dakota Ridge expansion

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By Matt Gunn

Only a decade after opening its doors, Dakota Ridge High School is beginning a new chapter, as Jeffco Public Schools officially broke ground Oct. 23 on an $8 million expansion to the school.

The new portion of the school will increase student capacity from 1,250 to 1,750 students when it is completed next year. The ceremony began in the school’s library before moving outside, where district officials, board members and Dakota Ridge students and staff took part in loosening the soil on the school’s east side.

“There’s something very fitting in beginning this groundbreaking in the Dakota Ridge library,” said Jeffco schools Superintendent Cindy Stevenson. “I think this is one of the most beautiful libraries in the district.”

Plans include another 17 classrooms, an auxiliary gym and fitness area, an increase in cafeteria size and added space for special education.

“Whenever we’re thinking about adding anything to a school, the board wants to ensure that our students are getting the best possible education,” said Vince Chowdhury, the District 5 representative on the school board.

The construction was made possible by the 2004 bond election, in which voters approved $323.8 million for repairs, renovation and construction of facilities within Jeffco Public Schools.

“We just are on a roll,” Stevenson said. “Groundbreakings and dedicating — it really is fun.”

When the project is complete, Dakota Ridge will be able to eliminate the use of portable classrooms and expand space for faculty parking.

“Also, there will be new technology, smart boards and projectors,” said principal Jim Jelinek. “The good news is that most of the student body that’s here will get to see what it looks like.”

He estimated the expansion will be complete in November 2008.

“I would guess that we’re probably going to be (finished) about a year from now,” Jelinek said.

Unlike the recent renovation at Chatfield Senior High, the Dakota Ridge construction should not limit access to any portions of the building. That’s because, for the most part, growth will take place on the school’s east side, with few changes inside the current facility.

The advisory committee for the upgrade included Dakota Ridge faculty, district staff and even some of Dakota Ridge’s students, Jelinek said.

The project is one of 440 within Jeffco Public Schools.

“I would like to thank the voters who made sure that Dakota Ridge is benefiting,” Chowdhury said. “In the meantime, we need to think about the others. This is a huge county, and we have close to 150 schools.”

More information — along with renderings — is available at the school’s website, http://jeffcoweb.jeffco.k12.co.us/high/dakota.

Contact Matt Gunn at matt@evergreenco.com.