Now that the Douglas County Board of Education has approved a charter contract with Ascent Classical Academy of Douglas County, the school team is working to finalize the campus location for the new school. The school has committed to serve northern Douglas County since its inception while also drawing students from Castle Rock and other communities north of Douglas County. The classical model followed by Ascent Classical Academy is used by the highest performing schools in Colorado and not currently an option available in the county.
The school is in high demand with the parents and guardians of over 565 children wanting this school.
The school now has a site identified as its future campus, given development timelines required by the school district. This site is located at the intersection of Cresthill Lane and Adelaide Circle in Highlands Ranch. This 10-acre parcel was given to the Douglas County Schools in 1996 to be used for a public school and has sat vacant since that time with a sign that it is a future school site. This site is also well located given the high demand from parents in Highlands Ranch and nearby Lone Tree, while still accessible to parents from other parts of the community.
The school is responsible for obtaining funding for the expected $12-$14 million to develop the actual school building and there are not any affordable 8+ acre sites within northern Douglas County to build a new school, the reason Ascent Classical Academy has requested a long-term land lease with the Douglas County School District.
Locating a Douglas County charter school on this site is an intended use of the location.
The Douglas County Board of Education is expected to act on Ascent Classical’s lease request on August 15. If a lease is approved by the Board of Education, a formal traffic impact study and mitigation process will be conducted and must be approved by Douglas County before the school receives an approval to construct its building.
There are several factors the school has considered in selecting and requesting this site.
The parcel is 10.04 acres, a generous size for a K-12, 750-student charter public school. This size allows the school to not only construct a nice building but include field space and affords significant options to handle school traffic within its own property, alleviating the impact on the surrounding community. Many charter schools in Douglas County are built on a lot this size or smaller with some having much higher enrollment as seen in the table below:
|School Name||Land Size (Acres)||Enrollment||Children/ Acre|
|DCS Montessori Charter School||8.5||444||52|
|Academy Charter School||10.2||638||63|
|World Compass Academy||7.2||450||63|
|Aspen View Academy||10.0||850||85|
|Ben Franklin Academy||10.1||885||87|
|American Academy – Parker||9.9||896||90|
|American Academy – Castle Pines||9.0||886||99|
|Challenge to Excellence||4.8||483||101|
|Parker Core Knowledge||6.4||700||109|
|Platte River Academy||4.3||486||114|
|North Star Academy||4.8||664||138|
|STEM School & Academy||8.8||1590||181|
|Ascent Classical Academy (at Cresthill Lane)||10.0||730||73|
Ascent Classical Academy recognizes a new school brings additional traffic. However, there is a formal process to gathering real data and addressing ways to mitigate the effects of traffic. An objective analysis is conducted after a lease deal is approved and a mitigation plan is developed before building permits are issued. The school’s development and design team, Douglas County Traffic Engineering, and local community all work together to gather data and facts and develop a plan that must be approved by the Douglas County Planning Commission.
There are three areas for address traffic. The first area is traffic engineering itself. Options in this area include turning lanes, right-turns only to enter and exit the site, and other measures. The second area is the school’s site plan. The school’s preliminary design already includes an ability to queue over 3,000 feet of traffic within the site itself, taking this traffic off the surrounding streets, as seen above. This is five times the queuing length of nearby Valor Christian School and 250% more than Cresthill Middle School, that enrolls 900 students. Site design also considers other ways to make the flow of traffic efficient and smooth within the site itself.
An example of good site design includes American Academy on Motsenbocker Rd in Parker. This campus has almost 900 students on a 9.92 acre parcel.
A final area for mitigation is the school’s operational approach. Ascent Classical Academy is committed to being a good neighbor and this area is important. The school is able to make operational decisions that affect traffic, such as staggering school start and end times, having school staff and volunteers managing traffic flow, ensuring parents are following the school’s rules on not parking within the surrounding neighborhood, and developing policies and guidelines around student drivers.
Site Purpose and Preparation
As mentioned previously, this site was given to the school district 21 years ago to be a public school and any use is restricted for this purpose. It has the required utility infrastructure in place and can be developed within the timeframe required by the Douglas County School District. The school district has removed it from its long-term use plan. If the Douglas County School District is not going to allow this site to be developed for its intended use, as a public school that is in high demand, what does it intend to do with it?
If this site is not used as a school, it is likely to be sold allowing it to be developed as a commercial property or high-density housing.
Ascent Classical Academy believes this site is a win for parents, district, and community. If the school is unable to finalize a lease for the Cresthill location, it will be unable to build a new campus to open in the fall of 2018 and will look to renovate existing space. The current commercial real estate market in northern Douglas County is very competitive and options for existing real estate with 55,000 square feet are limited.