Board reviews school options |

Board reviews school options

Dana Strongin

— After a review of four options for Soda Creek Elementary School on Monday, the Steamboat Springs School Board agreed that the public should have a say in the school’s future.

The board on Monday saw a presentation evaluating options for the school. The options were presented in a district-wide facilities analysis by the firm Christiansen, Reece & Partners. The analysis stated that Soda Creek has structural problems.

The four options were to tear down the existing school and construct a new school at the present site; to construct a new school off Whistler Road; to remodel and add on to the existing school or to leave the school as it is.

The presentation included estimates of what the options would cost, as well as benefits and drawbacks of each choice.

To construct a new school at the same site, the cost would be about $18.2 million. Benefits include convenience of the site; hinderances included traffic and parking issues. A new school by Whistler Road and Meadow Lane would cost about $16.9 million. An advantage of building a new school at a different site is that students would not have to go to a temporary school, but the site would present traffic concerns.

A remodel is estimated at $12 million. It would keep the school in its location, but students would have to be relocated, and the cost of renovation would be high, according to the presentation.

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The analysis also included options for temporary sites during the construction or remodel processes. The choices include the George P. Sauer Human Services Center, the practice field in front of the high school, the Strawberry Park campus and the land off Whistler Road.

Board member Jeff Troeger asked why Lee Trust land west of Steamboat wasn’t considered a possible site for a new school. Rick Denney, the district’s facilities director, said that district officials were saving that land for future development.

The question turned into a discussion about growth.

“Nobody knows what’s going to happen west of town,” said board member Pat Gleason.

Troeger said that he wasn’t sure that families would remain near the Soda Creek area because of the cost of housing.

He said that the board should decide whether building a new school is a reaction to growth or the inadequacy of the facility. Further, he said, he wanted to first consider maintaining Soda Creek’s current location.

Gleason said residents would be able to identify the school’s strengths and weaknesses.

“I want these options to go to the community,” Gleason said.

It’s not an issue of expansion, Gleason said.

“Overall, we need to find out what the community will support in terms of education,” he said. “Is the community willing to support that structure? I think we’ve got to ask that question.”

Board president Tom Miller-Freutel asked whether using the high school field as a temporary site was a good idea. Elementary-level and high school-level students would be mixed, he said.

“That’s a question for the parents,” Superintendent Donna Howell said.

Public comment is important, the board agreed. Board members said they would coordinate meetings to gather public input about Soda Creek’s future. District officials may also provide an outlet for comments online.