During a public hearing on Tuesday, the Cortez City Council approved a conditional use permit to allow the Children’s Kiva Montessori School to move into the old Montezuma County Justice Building.
The school, currently on North Beech Street, is in the process of buying the building at 601 N. Mildred Road from the county. On Tuesday, the council unanimously approved its permit application to use the building as a school, which the Planning and Zoning Commission had approved on April 3.
Stacey Weyand, the school’s representative, said staff plan to begin asbestos abatement and other repairs immediately and move in August.
“I think once we get out all the construction, this building will be a great location for our school,” Weyand said.
The school has been planning to move to a different location for more than a year. In 2017, it applied for a permit to move into another building, only for the move to be canceled because the current tenants didn’t want to leave. According to the application narrative, the school’s leadership expects 108 students for the 2018-2019 school year, and it hopes to expand to 225 students. Its current location is too small to accommodate that growth, the application said, and it also requires students to cross the street between classes.
Several parents of Montessori students attended the meeting to support the permit. Wendy Weygandt, the school’s administrative assistant, said staff have raised more than $100,000 for the relocation, mostly by word of mouth.
“To have that response, to have people say, ‘We want to see you grow, we want to see you work’ – I think it’s just a testament of what the staff is accomplishing,” she said.
Tiffani Randall, who owns a Main Street business near the school’s current location, also said she supported the move, saying the school has always been a good neighbor and she believes the new location will be safer for students. Pepper Noyes, wife of new councilman Gary Noyes, said she was concerned about the safety of the busy roads near the building and whether the asbestos was as extensive as it was in the old Montezuma-Cortez High School building, which is being torn down.
Weyand said the building only has asbestos in a few places, and she does not anticipate the problems that led to the high school’s demolition. But the building will need extensive remodeling to meet fire codes and accessibility requirements before it can become a school. The school’s design includes several additions made in response to concerns from city officials, including a fence on the south side to keep children from running into the road.
The Justice Building’s current tenant, the Bridge Emergency Shelter, was given a 30-day notice on April 17 to leave the premises. When councilman Ty Keel asked about the Bridge’s future, Weyand said that was up to the county, which was leasing the building to the organization.
Later in Tuesday’s meeting, Eleanor Kuhl, of the First United Methodist Church, announced that her church offered part of its building for use as the shelter’s Day Labor Center until its new location is finished.
The organization is still looking for a shelter location to use from October to February, when its new building on North Park Street is scheduled to be complete.
Weyand said the school will keep its lease on the Beech Street location for now, although part of it will soon be used for a new distribution center for the Good Samaritan Center food pantry and Southwest Farm Fresh Co-op.
The council’s approval of the permit was met with applause from the large audience in City Hall. Mayor Karen Sheek wished the school well in its relocation.
“We’ll be really anxious to see the progress on this,” she said.