The Children’s Kiva Montessori School in Cortez plans to move to a new location soon, and the city planning and zoning commission has cleared their first hurdle.
During a public hearing on Tuesday, the board members voted unanimously to approve a conditional-use permit that would allow the school, currently located on 25 N. Beech St., to convert an old church building and its gymnasium on 2306 and 2310 E. Empire St. into their new home. Several people from the residential district where it’s located attended the meeting to voice their support for the move, which school leaders said will allow them to accommodate a growing number of students. The board’s approval of the permit came with several conditions, though, which city staff said the school must meet in order to comply with building and safety codes.
Most of the board’s issues with the proposed location had to do with safety. Several members expressed concern that the school’s early plans did not include a school zone or crosswalk on the heavily used road.
“Everybody who wants to bypass Main Street goes down that road,” Chairman Danny Giannone told representatives of the school. “There’s a lot of traffic down there.”
Nathaniel Seeley, president of the school’s board of directors, said he didn’t want to affect traffic on Empire Street by requesting a school zone, but he, along with Cortez public works director Phil Johnson, said the school would put up signs around the school warning drivers that children would be in the area. Seeley also said he hadn’t considered adding a crosswalk, but he said the school’s board would think about it.
“I would think our track record over the last two years speaks to our ability to adapt to certain situations,” he said. “Safety is the most important thing to us.”
City planner Tracie Hughes listed several improvements that would have to be made on the two buildings before they could become a school, including screening to reduce noise, repairs to bring the 50-year-old church building up to code and a one-way pickup and drop-off entrance. One woman who lives near the buildings spoke up during the public comment section to ask that the school builders avoid blocking the alley between the church and gymnasium, which she said current plans for fencing could do, since it’s the only access some residents have to their backyards. Seeley and fellow school representative Stacey Weyand said they would take that into consideration when they draft their final plans.
But board members agreed that, even with their concerns, the new location will be much safer than the Kiva’s current one, which requires children to cross the street in order to move between classrooms.
“I was opposed to you moving into the Beech Street location, simply because of the safety of the children,” board member Tim Butler told the Kiva representatives. “I’m much more amenable to you moving into this location.”
The next step for the school will be to get their conditional use permit approved by the city council.
Children’s Kiva Montessori expects to enroll between 105 and 108 students next year in kindergarten through eighth grade. The public charter school’s new building plans would allow it to accommodate 225 students, which is the number the board of directors expects to have within the next few years.