LAKEWOOD, Colo. (CBS4) – The deadline is fast approaching for a group of Lakewood residents to try and stop a school from being built on a treasured piece of land.
The Rocky Mountain Deaf School plans to buy 10 acres of land on Wright Street near Jewell Avenue in Lakewood. That piece of land is currently owned by the Jefferson County School District. It’s bordered by 26 acres of open space called Hutchinson Park.
The 10 acres in question were originally earmarked for an elementary school. It was set aside for the Jefferson County School District back in the early 1970s but remained undeveloped.
When the Rocky Mountain Deaf School came forward with plans to buy the land from the school district for its new school, the city rezoned it so a K-12 school can be built. But many nearby residents have been collecting signatures to petition the city to overturn that zoning.
Residents living around Hutchinson Park see the piece of undeveloped land as an escape — a treasure that has boosted views, home prices and affected sales, and a retreat for wildlife.
“Everybody here is in favor of having a school for the deaf kids … but what they’re proposing here is huge, for one thing, and it just isn’t going to fit into this area and it’s going to disturb; we’ve got elk that go through here, it’s going to destroy the environment, the ecology,” opponent Julie Cummings said.
Those reasons, coupled with concerns over congestion and construction, are why many people don’t want to see a school built there. They also question if the land actually belongs to the city or the school district.
“Rocky Mountain Deaf School is a wonderful school, but the identity is not yet solid because we don’t have a permanent home,” Cliff Moers with the Rocky Mountain Deaf School said. “This new school would give us that identity.”
The Rocky Mountain Deaf School is currently located in a strip mall in Golden. They say they are in desperate need of a larger facility. Supporters gathered on the proposed site of the school on Saturday asking residents who signed a petition against the school to rescind their signatures.
“It’s almost like we’ve been homeless. We’ve been moving from sight to sight, we’ve had four moves in 15 years,” Moers said.
“The school is huge for us. A lot of the mainstream schools have unfortunately not been able to handle my son due to his multiple needs,” parent Shannon Zimmerman said.
Supporters say the charter school will be much smaller than any traditional elementary with a maximum of 100 students allowed. It would also be built with grant money and won’t burden taxpayers.
Those opposed have until Friday to petition the city to reconsider zoning that land for a school. The coalition needs three percent of registered Lakewood voters to sign the petition. That’s roughly 3,000 signatures.