Erin Busken, an Escuela Valdez parent with three daughters, said the school wasnt always at the top of her familys list.
When we first started looking at Valdez it just didnt seem happy in there, Erin said. The building was old, with not a lot of light
More importantly, the 1970s structure wasnt always accessible for students and parents who, like Erin, came to fall in love with the school. Split-level floors and too-small auditorium and cafeteria spaces made it challenging for students in wheelchairs to get around, and for groups of parents and community members to gather.
You couldnt fit everybody into the space, Erin said. I think about when I was bringing a toddler there and couldnt find a place to sit
That all changed in 2012 when Denver voters approved bond funding to support a gut renovation at Valdez, with improvements that made every corner of the building more comfortable and welcoming. An accessible entrance and an elevator brought the building into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), fixes that hit home when one of Erins daughters classmates broke his leg.
Kids get what accessibility means, Erin said.
The renovations also made the building more inviting for all students and parents, opening up dark and cramped rooms with expanded spaces, windows and solar tubes, a kind of skylight. Erin remembers being struck by the new view from the schools entrance, where light pours in from a new atrium and expansive cafetorium, a combined cafeteria and auditorium.
It was just light filling that whole stairwell. I looked out and smiled, Erin said. For many people, school is the center of their community, and now theres space for people to meet and socialize.
For many people, school is the center of their community, and now theres space for people to meet and socialize.