Ascent Classical Academy still has not provided proof to the public that their new school building is lead-free

UPDATE as of 8/11/2023, 4:00 p.m.Ascent Classical Academy updated it’s blog today with a link to a report (pdf) provided by remediation project manager, the Vertex Company. The actual remediation was performed by Hudspeth Environmental Remediation Company based in Centennial, whose website says they specialize in asbestos and lead paint removal. According to the chart provided in the report, many areas remain 5 to 23 times above HUD’s recommended lead clearance cleanup standard of <10 µ/sq.ft. (less than 10 micrograms per square foot). Among these are the men’s bathroom on the first floor, which had 71 µ/sq.ft,  the floor of the first floor “men’s restroom in the tactical area,” with 83 µ/sq.ft., the former “Handgun range – floor in NE corner” at 68 µ/sq.ft., “Handgun range – floor in middle by west wall” at 57 µ/sq.ft., the “Handgun range – center of floor in room south of handgun range,” which had 130 µ/sq.ft., the “Handgun range – floor in SE corner” at 98 µ/sq.ft. and “Handgun range – floor in room south of range” with 230 µ/sq.ft.

The “Discussion” part of the report states,

“As it is not feasible to sample all areas of all surfaces, the wipe sampling strategy utilized by VERTEX does not provide for, nor ensure that all surfaces within a subject property undergo wipe sampling; thus, the possibility exists that lead-in-dust concentrations on surface locations not sampled during an assessment may be in excess of HUD and/or CDPHE Regulation 19 cleanup standards.”

Translation:” It’s not feasible to test the whole property, so there may be lead concentrations in places we didn’t check that may be in excess of HUD and CDPHE’s cleanup standards.”

Ascent does not yet have a Certificate of Occupancy for the building.

The Ascent Classical Academy charter school is planning to move into the old Rocky Mountain Gun Club building at 545 31 Road, which formerly served as an indoor shooting range for 7 years. The inside of the building is currently being rebuilt and their website says the first day of school will be Tuesday, September 5, 2023, but to date, Ascent still hasn’t provided the public with documentation from a government health authority that their building poses no threat of lead poisoning to occupants, and they appear to be withholding information on the remediation status of the building.  [See above update.]

Why be concerned?

Lead contamination is a known problem at shooting ranges.

A photo of remediation workers in an indoor shooting range. Shooting ranges are hazardous waste sites that require remediation workers to wear full body protective gear and respirators. (Photo: MT2 Firing Range Services)

Every bullet ever fired inside the Rocky Mountain Gun Club while it was a shooting range gave off a small puff of very fine lead dust that got onto walls, ceilings, flooring, ductwork, onto clothing, fixtures, doorknobs, cabinetry, everything. In addition to lead, ammunition also often contains arsenic, which can also contribute to shooting range contamination. Shooting range employees suffer from lead poisoning, and the children of employees develop high blood levels of lead. Thoroughly remediating such a building can be tricky, because the dust is diffuse and works its way into everything on the property, as opposed to just being contained solely in lead-based paint, a situation where if you remove the paint, you remove the lead.

Lead exposure poses an extremely serious health risk, especially to children.

The World Health Organizations (WHO) says,

“Lead exposure can have serious consequences for the health of children. At high levels of exposure, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system, causing coma, convulsions and even death. Children who survive severe lead poisoning may be left with intellectual disability and behavioral disorders. At lower levels of exposure that cause no obvious symptoms, lead is now known to produce a spectrum of injury across multiple body systems. In particular, lead can affect children’s brain development, resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioral changes such as reduced attention span and increased antisocial behavior, and reduced educational attainment. Lead exposure also causes anemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs. The neurological and behavioral effects of lead are believed to be irreversible.

There is no known safe blood lead concentration; even blood lead concentrations as low as 3.5 µg/dL [micrograms per deciliter] may be associated with decreased intelligence in children, behavioral difficulties and learning problems (1). As lead exposure increases, the range and severity of symptoms and effects also increase.”

Initially last March, Ascent’s then-Director of New Schools promised that “Full [post-remediation] testing reports will be available upon request.”:

But as Ascent’s opening date drew closer and I requested to see the post-remediation testing results, I found Kim Gilmartin no longer worked for Ascent and had left due to “irreconcilable differences.” Instead, I got a response from Amy Willis, Ascent’s Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, who flatly refused to supply the requested information, claiming it is proprietary and non-public:

Amy Willis, Chief Marketing and Communications Officer for Ascent, refused to share any information on the status of the safety certification of the former Rocky Mountain Gun Club building

Until the building is certified by a public health authority, like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) or Mesa County Public Health as being 100% safe for people, including young children, to inhabit for many hours a day, for weeks and months on end, the only way parents can be 100% sure their children will not risk being exposed to lead dust is to not allow their children to enter the building, since according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) no safe level of lead exposure in children currently exists.

The former Rocky Mountain Gun Club building at 545 31 Road, where Ascent Classical Academy plans to open a new K-8 charter school September 5. As of Tuesday, August 8, the Gun Club signs remained on the building, and as of Friday, August 11, Ascent had still not provided the public with any credible documentation from a public health authority that adequate lead remediation has been performed inside the building, which is expected to house as many as 300 children.


  18 comments for “Ascent Classical Academy still has not provided proof to the public that their new school building is lead-free

  1. This is just not true. Do a little more research. You will find that vertex is stating the lead is below. Ascent is a state charter. They still have to abide by state guidelines for schools. CSI requires it.

  2. I find it frustrating that new charter schools are still opening when the school district just closed East Middle School and other schools have been under consideration for closing.

      • TF– while it would be outside of District 51, kids that would otherwise attend district 51 schools can now be siphoned off to charter schools. Essentially breaking the back of public school funding and perpetuating wealth inequality and a “have/have not” dichotomy in society. Because fewer kids attend public school, the public schools get less funding. This might be part of the push: a non-judicial means of essentially defunding public Schools.

  3. How reckless of both the seller and the buyer!
    At a minimum N95 masking is a requirement for those that enter the building, which I am sure will go over big w this particular cohort.
    And good luck w “that Ascent”.

  4. Once again, Anne show she has more care and integrity than many of our local leaders. Someone needs to hold these school officials (district 51 board) accountable. Sick of the arrogance and lack of transparency.

  5. I’m curious who owns this property and if there was a sale or rental transaction? Who is making money on this unorthodox repurposing of the property? Just like coal miners carried home dust to their families, this dust likely would transfer the same way. Into every space students and staff go into all over town. Good work, Anne!

    • The building is owned by a shell company called 545 31 RD LLC. The CO Secretary of State doesn’t list any person as owner of 545 31 RD LLC, but the LLC’s Articles of Organization were filed with the state by Derec Shuler, “Chief Executive Officer and Visionary” of Ascent Classical Academies.
      The Address of 545 31 Rd. LLC is 4690 Table Mountain Dr., Suite 100,Golden CO 80403. Shuler and Ascent have ties to the Charles and David Koch, the conservative industrialist billionaires who fund Hillsdale College and its Barney Charter School Initiative. That could be where the money came from to purchase the building.

    • Good point.
      I was also thinking of uranium and asbestos miners and the take home toxins.
      As we know, for decades there has been an active movement to eliminate lead exposure esp for children. How was this point missed/skirted around?
      Musta been $$ in the equation that propelled the project to move forward.

      • An especially foul transaction- unloading a problem property while undermining public education. Hard not to be skeptical of this whole business.

        • The realtor I talked to when I started inquiring about this property because of this issue, Amy Baldwin of ReMax (who was not the listing real estate agent, but her name appeared with the property in an ad online) said due diligence to investigate the property is the responsibility of the buyer, not the seller. But most people probably don’t know that lead is a such problem at such facilities, let alone its effects on the body or on children in particular.

          • Pre-purchase inspection not required?
            I find it unethical that seller does not have to disclose or even suggest the potential of such significant contamination is possible!
            What a crummy business approach.
            And ya gotta wonder about the buyers given their livelihood is in

      • It’s a little-known public health problem. Bullets have other dangerous substances in them as well, like arsenic, and some people make their own bullets, which further obscures the dangerous substances that could be present in them.

      • Good point about the possibility that $$ were involved. The Koch-fueled religious right has been known to employ $$ to sway lawmakers, regulators and the courts. The people behind the charter school in the old shooting range may simply say “science be darned, prayer will protect the children.”

  6. I expect that parents of an otherwise qualified student applicant (above average intelligence, well-financed, non disruptive, christian) might suddenly find their child unwelcome at Hillsdale Gun Club Charter christian School if said parents raised concerns about failure of the school to provide evidence of absence of lead.

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