Denver’s Design Concepts has the landscape architect and planning partner for nine high-profile school projects funded by the Colorado Dept. of Education’s BEST Program for capital school construction.

The Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Program is a competitive grant program available to public school districts and other educational institutions in Colorado. Administered by CDE’s Division of Public School Capital Construction Assistance, the BEST Program aims to alleviate school health and safety concerns and provide first-class, high-performing 21st -Century facilities.

Since it was enacted in 2008, the BEST Program has funded 147 projects in 94 Colorado school districts, with $674 million in grants awarded for construction needs, including new and renovated schools and campuses. Most grants are for rural schools built in the 1950s through 1970s with problems such as substandard construction, deferred maintenance, asbestos and wasteful energy systems. Many of the schools span preschool or kindergarten through grade 12, reflecting a trend toward consolidation of schools to achieve more efficient uses of resources.

The BEST Program “is such a huge benefit for rural districts that could not have afforded new schools and site improvements any other way,” says Carol Henry, Design Concepts principal in charge of planning the landscapes for five projects. “The BEST schools give a new and distinct character to the schools and community.” The K-12 schools also often double as a community center and provide the community’s only safe playgrounds and parks, she says.

Design Concepts has partnered with architecture firms for nine BEST Program projects:

•Sangre de Cristo PK-12 School in Mosca, with klipp.gkkworks in Denver, opened in August 2011

•Center K-12 School in Center, with klipp.gkkworks in Denver, August 2012 opening

•Holly PK-12 School in Holly, with RTA Architects in Colorado Springs, 2013 opening

•Fairplay K-12 School in Fairplay, with Larson Incitti Architects in Denver, 2013 opening

•Idalia K-12 School in Idalia, with Wold Architects and Engineers in Denver, 2013 opening