MONTROSE—(September 17, 2013) Call it a work in progress. Since the historic Oak Grove School was first established in 1886 (the original brick building that still stands today was built in 1901), the community it serves has grown and prospered…and taken to the road en masse in motorized vehicles.
“Oak Grove School…began as a one-room log cabin where children shared desks and drank from a common water bucket,” wrote Montrose Author and Historian Marilyn Cox, in her “Step Back in Time” column published in the Montrose Daily Press on Aug. 19, 1997. “Its name originated from the surrounding oak brush.”
From the beginning, the school has been a center of community life.
“The walls echoed with laughter during pie socials, box suppers, dances, and meetings of all kinds,” wrote Cox. “Mothers packed sandwiches made from home-baked bread in lunch pails or lard buckets. Most children walked or rode horses to school, some as far as five miles.”
Oak Grove’s first pupils faced challenges unheard of today, from itchy flour-sack underwear to outdoor plumbing. Today, however, there are new challenges—though Oak Grove still boasts one of Montrose County’s loveliest and most spacious parks, parking at the school, which sits at the corner of Oak Grove Road and 6200 Roads, is increasingly problematic. Though many students are transported by bus, few walk to school or arrive on horseback any longer, and parking spaces are in short supply during the morning and afternoon pickup times.
The Montrose Mirror sat down with Oak Grove Principal Dana Burwell and Montrose County School District Re-1J Property Services Supervisor Jason Arebalos last week to learn what options are being considered to improve safety and access at the historic school. Though renovations to the school’s buildings were undertaken in 2006, including the addition of the current Kindergarten pickup lot, pickup times remain chaotic.
“When we renovated Oak Grove, (former Principal) Dave Arellano wanted to separate school busses from cars,” Arebalos said, “so we created the lot for Kindergarten pickup. Now, Dana and I are looking carefully at what else we can do.”
Arebalos, who oversaw Re-1J’s successful $23 million school facility upgrade ten years ago, made sure that the projects were completed on time and within budget. In turn, those upgrades helped to return the community’s investment with $30 million in brick and mortar improvements. Now, parking and traffic flow at Montrose & Olathe campuses are among the Property Services Manager’s daily concerns.
Burwell, who noted that the staff parking lot at Oak Grove is always full these days thanks to an increase in staff, said that the safety of students and parents is her number one concern.
“We have been looking at this systematically,” she said. “Jason monitors our lots; in theory, we actually need one lot for student drop-off, and one for parking.”
Some ideas being considered for the school, which serves 380 students this year, include possibly joining the two lots in front of the school and making access one-way only. Any changes to the Oak Grove Road right-of-way must be coordinated with Montrose County, however, which in the past has extended the island in front of the school to prevent parking along the street.
“Farm vehicles could not get through,” Arebalos explained, and added that the lots are heavily impacted for only around ten minutes each day, and that afternoon pickup times are far more of a crush than morning drop-offs, which tend to be more staggered.