Advisory committee continues to explore Steamboat school expansion options |

Advisory committee continues to explore Steamboat school expansion options

Jaxon Wright, center, was excited to be back in Kim Waldschmidt’s first-grade class and surrounded by new classmates Jackson Koermer, left, and Charlie Diemer, right, at the start of the 2018-19 school year. (Photo by John F. Russell)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — After spending eight months meeting on the “Phase II” plan for expanding capacity to meet a growing student population in the Steamboat Springs School District, members of an advisory committee are beginning to narrow down a wide breadth of expansion scenarios.

Since January, members of the group have met in smaller committees — communications, academic programming, extracurricular activities and building facilities — and on Tuesday night, they gathered for the fourth time together with about 40 people in attendance.

Finance Director Mark Rydberg presented the committee with a detailed breakdown of grade level enrollment, and members discussed space needs in terms of projected growth over the next five years and how those demographics could change for the next 10 to 25 years.

At a glance

Executive Committee core values
• Safety
• Student success
• Transparency longevity

Advisory Committee master plan goals
• Fiscally sustainable
• Environmental stewardship and energy efficient
• Tied to strategic plan
• Community partnerships
• Student success for whole student
• Schools as part of neighborhood
• Know when big is too big
• A plan that is adaptable and flexible

Total school district enrollment stands at about 2,650 students, up from 1,522 in 1986. The student population is expected to reach 3,005 by 2030.

Over the past 30 years, the number of traditional school buildings in the district has remained unchanged.

This year, the high school is at 97 percent capacity and the middle school is at 98 percent. The district’s two elementary schools are over capacity at 113 percent.

The city of Steamboat Springs’ Department of Planning and Community Development anticipates the local population may continue to grow by 20 to 25 percent over the next 12 years.

The committee discussed a key question: How big do we build now and how much capacity do we build for long-term, future growth?

Superintendent Brad Meeks emphasized that regardless of building size, staffing will be based on enrollment.

And there’s no single right answer, Meeks said. At this point, the goal is to present a variety of scenarios and ideas and gather input and information, including cost estimates.

On school sizes, the committee’s recommendations were based on research showing the benefits of smaller schools, which can provide a sense of community and safety and meet the social and emotional needs of students.

Focused on a classroom size of 20 to 25 students, committee members reviewed 11 different scenarios with varying grade configurations for the Strawberry Park campus.

The scenarios included three overarching options:

  • Hosting pre-K to eighth grade on the campus
  • Hosting pre-K to fifth grade on the campus
  • Converting the campus into a middle school

The committee members were asked to rate the 11 options, delving into the pros and cons of each.

While a few of the options clearly made less sense, it was a valuable exercise nonetheless, said architect Lyn Eller. He added that as the process expands with input from more stakeholders and the larger community, the district and committee will have explored every idea — good and bad.

And beginning with Strawberry Park, Eller said, will be a driver in what happens next in the district.

Throughout October, a series of meetings will be held with the four different focus groups, and community forums will be held in November, with dates to be finalized soon.

There will also be a survey going out to 1,500 mailboxes and posted online in mid-November, and work is underway this month to collect video drone data to take a closer look at things like morning and afternoon traffic flow.

All input will be gathered during the first months of 2019, with a master plan published next May or June.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @KariHarden.

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