Housing authority sees three spots at Brown Ranch for potential new school

District likely wouldn't need a new school for at least a decade

The Yampa Valley Housing Authority sees three potential spots for a school in the Brown Ranch. Two of the options, identified by A and B on this map, would be incorporated into the development's largest neighborhood, while the third, C, would be on land the Steamboat Springs School District already owns.
Yampa Valley Housing Authority/Courtesy photo

The Steamboat Springs School Board indicated on Monday, Aug. 15, that it was open to the idea of incorporating a new school into the larger planning at the Yampa Valley Housing Authority’s Brown Ranch property.

The district owns a parcel along Routt County Road 42 that is adjacent to the 536-acre Brown Ranch. The board said in February that it was open to partnering with the housing authority to develop this parcel.

As the housing authority gets closer to sharing the larger development plan with the public, Executive Director Jason Peasley said he sees three potential locations for a new school.

“The volume of people that would live here would warrant some type of school,” Pealsey said, referring to the 2,300 units the Brown Ranch hopes to add. “There is a lot at play that none of us have any control over, like how many kids you guys are going to have enrolled in school in 12 years.”

Peasley said previous discussions he had with former superintendent Brad Meeks quickly centered on the idea that a new school in the Brown Ranch would be a neighborhood elementary school, similar to how Soda Creek Elementary is in the center of Old Town.

Walkability has been a focal point in Brown Ranch planning, and Peasley said a lot of locals have expressed a desire to be able to have their children walk to school. He identified three potential sites for a new school, with two of them being intertwined in the neighborhoods Brown Ranch will eventually have.

“Our belief is that all three of these would all be very good options,” Peasley said. “For our personal criteria related to integration into the neighborhood, we think (the two options within the Brown Ranch) are really compelling place-making spots.”

Planning shared on Monday, Aug. 15, with the Steamboat Springs School Board shows Brown Ranch will likely have four neighborhoods. The one to the southeast, labeled as A, is the first part that would be developed.
Yampa Valley Housing Authority/Courtesy photo

A map Peasley shared with the board showed four main neighborhoods in Brown Ranch, with the one in the center of the development being the largest at more than 1,000 units. One spot for the school would be on the east of this neighborhood, and another just to the west.

Both of these spots would have good walkability from much of the Brown Ranch and are close to areas that have already been identified for open space. Building a school in either spot would likely lead to a land swap between the district and the housing authority.

The third option would be to build a school on the land the district already owns.

“We’ve heard from the community over and over again that neighborhood schools are the most desirable,” said Board President Katy Lee. “Whether or not demographics work out that the first school that runs out is an elementary school … we don’t know.”

The parcel owned by the Steamboat Springs School District straddles U.S. Highway 40, though the southern triangular portion is unbuildable due to the terrain.
Yampa Valley Housing Authority/Courtesy photo

The district opened its first new school in 40 years in 2021 with Sleeping Giant School, which serves students from pre-kindergarten to eighth grade, just west of Brown Ranch. District Finance Director Stephanie Juneau said current projections show the district wouldn’t need to add more capacity for about a decade.

But she also said that doesn’t factor in what impacts the Brown Ranch would have on Steamboat’s school-aged population.

“There will be a need, at full build out (of the Brown Ranch), for an additional school at some place,” Juneau said.

A new school wouldn’t be needed for several years, as the 2,300 units expected at Brown Ranch will be built out over the next two decades. Initial groundwork on the project hopes to start in 2024.

Peasley said he didn’t think either location for a school within the Brown Ranch was big enough to incorporate a new high school, if that is what the board determined the next school needed to be. Juneau said she didn’t think the parcel the district owned was big enough for a high school either.

“I think what we ultimately need to do is as a board, as a district, to look at what our values are for growth in our schools,” said Board Member Lara Craig. “We would want to outline what our values are so that down the road if none of us are on this board anymore, that there’s an agreement that lives in some sort of theoretical ideal, a sort of vision.”

Peasley suggested the two organizations sign a memorandum of understanding that, while not binding, would officially declare the intention to explore putting a school within the Brown Ranch.

Board members indicated support for this idea, though did not take a vote as this meeting was considered a workshop during which the board doesn’t make decisions. Lee said the board would consider any agreement at a regular business meeting to ensure they could take public comment.

“A memorandum of understanding with perhaps contingency of what if it has to be a middle school instead, what if it has to be a high school,” Lee said. “We could do some contingency planning with the understanding that the MOU is our primary plan.”

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