The Boulder Valley school board agreed at a Tuesday evening work session to move forward with asking voters in the fall to approve a $576 million capital construction package.
"This is a great opportunity that we have to do the right thing in our district," said board President Laurie Albright.
Superintendent Bruce Messinger recommended the $576 million package, which is the largest of three options passed along by the district's Capital Improvement Planning Committee.
The citizens' committee and district staff members whittled down a complete list of capital needs totaling $858 million to three options that ranged in cost from $367 million to $576 million.
Based on recent political polling, all three options garnered at least 60 percent support — the target percentage needed for a good chance of voter approval.
The $576 million package would cost homeowners an estimated $47 more a year per $100,000 of home value, or $188 a year for a $400,000 home.
That package includes a new $45 million school in Erie, added classroom space to expand preschool and all-day kindergarten programs and repairs and renovations at existing schools.
It also includes two items that proved controversial with some board members: air conditioning and a districtwide kitchen.
The package includes $37.7 million for air conditioning at 10 schools — five of which proved particularly difficult to cool even with ventilation system improvements, and five used for summer programs.
Board member Sam Fuqua, who expressed concern about the conflict with community sustainability values, said he wants to see the district limit schools' air conditioning use to days when it's really needed.
Also in the package is a central kitchen, which would cost about $10 million and would replace three regional kitchens.
District staff members said that the regional kitchens, located in schools, don't work well and are a burden to those schools. Plus, they said, a fourth regional kitchen would be needed if a central kitchen isn't built, while a central kitchen allows for efficiency that will save money on operating expenses.
Board member Tom Miers noted that a central kitchen didn't poll well, creating a concern that it will be difficult to convince voters that it's needed. He added that the polling results aren't as "rosy" when looking at specific items.
But board member Jim Reed said he was impressed that the polling numbers were so high overall, given that about 40 percent of people generally will vote "no" on any tax increase.
"There's just tremendous needs," he said. "We've got to ask the voters. They want to be asked."
Messinger said staff members will develop ballot language and a school-by-school breakdown of improvements for the package and bring both to the board in August for a vote.
"Now we go to work," he said.