Durango School District 9-R’s board expressed reservations this week about granting The Juniper School a loan to renovate its new buildings.
The Juniper School plans to move from a building it shares with Big Picture High School on 12th Street into two Tech Center buildings.
The Juniper School is chartered through 9-R and is financially accountable to the district. However, The Juniper School has an independent board and budget.
The office buildings are meant to give the school room to grow, but they need to be renovated over the summer to make room for classrooms and other necessary facilities.
The school district may loan the school up to $400,000 to fund the renovations, said Superintendent Dan Snowberger.
The money could be paid back to 9-R through property tax funds that are already going to the school, he said. Even if the school folded, 9-R could recuperate the funds through the property taxes, he said.
Board Vice President Stephanie Moran said she is concerned about investing money in a building Juniper School does not own. She is also concerned about the school taking on monthly rent payments and other new costs, such as custodial services, previously covered by the district.
“What is the plan for them to make this work?” she said.
Board members asked Snowberger to request the school’s financial plans so the projections can be reviewed by the district’s Financial Advisory Committee and the school board.
Juniper School’s Board President Heather Houk said the request for the school’s budget projections is a natural progression of the expansion plans.
“We feel really confident that we’ll be able to meet the financial needs,” she said.
If the school district does not approve the loan, it would leave Juniper without a home, Snowberger said. Big Picture High School plans on expanding into the space Juniper will vacate.
The district needs Juniper because it does not have space in its traditional schools to absorb Juniper’s students, Snowberger said.
The additional space will also allow Juniper to enroll more students, which is necessary to help them become financially sustainable, he said.
“They are a new child of ours. We own them whether we like it or not,” he said.