School district backs off request, deaf school future in doubt

6:43 PM, Sep 11, 2012   |    comments
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"There's a title ownership question," said Bill Marcoux, member of the 2090 Coalition. "Who owns the property?"

The 2090 Coalition is a group of presidents who have opposed plans for the charter school designed for deaf students to build a 46,000 square foot-facility at 2090 Wright Street in Lakewood. Initially, officials with the Rocky Mountain Deaf School thought everything was a go after the Lakewood City Council approved a rezoning plan in July that would allow for a new K-12 school.

But, the 2090 Coalition obtained enough petition signatures to force a special election in December, which will allow the public to decide whether the rezoning request should go through.

Monday night, everything changed when Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Cindy Stevenson sent a letter to the city of Lakewood asking to rescind the earlier rezoning request.

The letter reads in part: "We make this request not because this rezoning action lacks merit," stated Stevenson in the letter. "We make this request because these are times of financial distress and economic uncertainty; therefore, we believe it is unconscionable to ask the citizens of Lakewood to spend a quarter million dollars on a single special election."

Rocky Mountain Deaf School Director Nancy Bridenbaugh offered no official statements except to say that school leaders are now weighing their options. Without a change in zoning, the deaf school could still build a K-8 facility. But, when asked if the school would still try to build on the 2090 Wright Street site without a change in zoning, she stated that was not an option.

However, residents are not claiming victory, according to Marcoux. He says the real issue is that the land should belong to the city of Lakewood as open space.

The developer agreed to give the land to Jefferson County Schools to build a new school. But, Marcoux says if a school was not built within eight years, it was supposed to be turned over to the city of Lakewood as open space. Marcoux says that never happened and Jeffco Schools assumed control of the land erroneously.

The school district is going to court to try to clear up the ownership issue. Marcoux says if Jeffco can establish itself as the rightful owners of the land, residents are worried a different school might be built on that site eventually. Marcoux says the 2090 Coalition may file a motion to be heard at the hearing.

He says this whole process has been a burden on the residents.

"We feel that we've been victimized that we have to spend our own money to protect our rights while the government spends their money, our money in essence, to try and push their agenda," Marcoux said.

The Rocky Mountain Deaf School initially had a time deadline to use the grant money in order to build a new school. But, officials with the BEST program changed that, giving the school more time to find a new site if needed.

Marcoux says the 2090 Coalition has never been against the needs of the deaf school. They just believe the land the school wanted is supposed to be deemed as open space.

"There's plenty of other pieces of property within Lakewood as well as Metro Denver for the deaf school. We're not disputing that they have grant money and they deserve a new school," Marcoux said.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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