Groundbreaking for new school set for May; district continues water negotiations |

Groundbreaking for new school set for May; district continues water negotiations

Plans for the new pre-K through eighth-grade school in West Steamboat Springs is nearing the end of the design phase. Groundbreaking is anticipated in May.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Everything continues to move forward in the design and planning phase for the new pre-K through eighth-grade school that will be built on the west side of town, said Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Brad Meeks.

The design advisory group, as well as those assembled for the priority projects at the other district facilities, continue to meet virtually.

Work on the projects is anticipated to begin May 4, and Meeks said, the district is keeping in close communication with the county to adhere to all public health orders. COVID-19 mitigation plans have been submitted.

“We will do whatever the county wants us to do,” Meeks said.

The project technically is a state project, noted owners representative Colleen Kaneda.

The district is now six months into the project, she said. The $79.5 million ballot measure passed in November 2019, and the bonds sold in January.

The cost of the new school was estimated at $52.5 million, which includes site work, artificial turf play fields, new utilities and infrastructure.

For the other priority projects, $27 million of the bond total is designated for repairs, renovations and upgrades at all six of the district’s buildings. Those projects include more than 30,000 square feet of total additions at five schools.

Earth and concrete work is anticipated to start in mid-May, Kaneda said.

There will be a significant local economic impact, Kaneda said, and those numbers will be tracked and be made available as things continue to move forward in terms of hiring subcontractors, buying supplies and feeding and housing workers who are not local.

At the April 13 Steamboat Springs School Board meeting, board member Lara Craig noted concern from the community about workers traveling from outside of the county.

Typically, crews who are not local come in and rent housing for the week. Usually, they travel home on weekends, but Kaneda said that will be looked at more closely when crews are on site.

Depending on what the state and county public health orders look like at the time the general contractor is ready to bring in crews, Kaneda said the district will decide whether it makes sense to delay construction or require workers to stay in Routt County.

Schools will remain closed current school year

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis announced this week that schools across the state will remain closed for the rest of the 2019-20 school year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Polis confirmed that in-person learning will not resume until the next school year as a new “safer at home” order will replace the stay-at-home order that expires Sunday.

Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Brad Meeks sent a message to parents and staff Tuesday notifying them about the closure. Meeks said remote learning will continue for students through June 2, the last day of the 2019-20 school year.

The closure applies to all school districts in the state, including Mountain Village Montessori Charter School, Emerald Mountain School and Steamboat Mountain School.

Polis said when school resumes in the fall, it could “look different” if the coronavirus is still present. Districts should be prepared to shift to remote learning for the 2020-21 school year if necessary, he said.

Local students will be contacted in May with a plan for them to return to school facilities and retrieve personal items.

— Bryce Martin

Water issues unresolved

On Monday, the Steamboat II Metropolitan District board of directors met and expressed hesitation about annexing the school property and providing water to the new school. They did not vote on anything but expressed a preference for the city to provide water directly to the school.

“The district board feels that its primary responsibility is to the residents and owners currently in the Steamboat II District, and it needs to protect or supplement the water available for its current residents and have a commitment to additional water supply, before it can add a large parcel of land to the (school) district.” Metro District Manager Chase Baker said in an emailed statement.

The water source would be essentially the same, in that the Metro District has an agreement with the city to purchase up to 150,000 gallons of water per day. That amount would likely need to be increased if the school property were to be annexed into the Metro District, though the Steamboat Springs City Council expressed support for modifying the contract if needed at a meeting last November.

“While there remains the potential for an agreement with the city for the district to obtain adequate water, the city’s current proposal does not provide for such a commitment to the district,” Baker said.

Kaneda said there have always been two options for water — the city and the Metro District. She added that the school district is fine moving forward with the city if the Metro District ultimately decides they don’t want to annex the property.

Kaneda said the school district also commissioned a water demand study.

“We don’t think the new school will use enough water to negatively impact Steamboat II’s water because they will be able to buy more,” Kaneda said.

The other option is for the school district to put its own sanitary system on the site.

“All the engineers made it clear it would be best to tie into the Metro District system,” Kaneda said.

John Snyder, director of public works for the city of Steamboat, said on Wednesday he has not yet heard from anyone at the Metro District regarding a decision on the new school.

The big difference would be in the need for the school district to build a new water line to connect to the city’s line, whereas the Metro District’s main water line is already right next door to the site, Snyder said.

The city’s main is at least 2,000 feet away from the edge of the property, he added.

“From an engineering and construction standpoint, it makes a lot more sense to connect to Metro, because it’s cheaper for the taxpayer,” Snyder said.

In terms of sewer, Baker said the district board has been working cooperatively with the school through its efforts to provide utility services to its property. 

“The (Metro) District also wants to work with the school and with the city to allow the school to connect into the (Metro) District’s sewer line, since the (Metro) District believes that this is a much better way to deal with waste than having an on-site leach field or septic system.”

Last year, during the heated debate about whether to build the new school in the Whistler neighborhood versus the Steamboat II area, existing utilities and ease of connection at the Whistler site was always listed as one of the advantages of that option.

New principal selected

Dr. Jennifer Malouff has been selected as the principal for the new school. Malouff, who will start in August, comes to Steamboat from Douglas County, where she was principal of Saddle Ranch Elementary and served as an administrator for 10 years. 

Over the course of the 2020-21 school year, while the new school is being built, Malouff will be tasked with familiarizing herself with the district and its teaching and learning models, working with the construction and furnishing teams, developing a master schedule, assisting with budget planning, participating in the process to create boundaries for the new school, hiring a staff and giving tours and presentations to the community.

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

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