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Kaufman, DeVincentis: Avoid repeating history

Will the school district repeat history?

Steamboat School District discussed the need of a new elementary school in the 1990s. It was decided to build a new high school. That bond failed because it intended to move the high school out of the core of our community. Later, a bond passed because the plan kept the high school at its current site.

Around 2006, the district decided to rebuild Soda Creek. A new building was to be built with the same number of rooms. The board would not spend tax dollars without additional room for growth. The board decided to add two additional rooms (all-day kindergarten). It was suggested to add the structural means for two new rooms inside the school. That suggestion was not taken; now, we have two modulars. Strawberry Park Elementary was added onto dramatically increasing its size and population.



The second year at Soda Creek the teachers’ lounge became the art room and the art room, a classroom. After just one year, the school was trying to adjust for a poor district plan.

The same issue exists today. The elementary schools are overcrowded, and a new high school is the focus. Remodeling the middle school and the high school and moving students seems to be the trick to address the elementary school overcrowding. The current middle school holds more than 550 students. Three-hundred small, young elementary students in a middle school built for 550 children? Really?

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It’s suggested to make Strawberry Park a kindergarten through second-grade school and the middle school a third grade through fifth grade school. Studies show the best grade level configuration is kindergarten through eighth grade, especially for girls. Student transitions in elementary schools between grade levels can cause academic, social and emotional issues for young children.

Remember Soda Creek was kindergarten through second grade and Strawberry Park was third grade through fifth grade between 1981 and 1991. Each year parents were concerned about their second graders going to the “big” school. Individual and group parent meetings were held to allay worries that their children would be “lost.”

Kindergarten through second grade to third grade through fifth grade is an artificial transition not best younger children and especially girls. Parents and students are anxious about the new teachers, support staff and principal that don’t know their children or their needs. Why would the district make this error a second time when its leaders and teachers know better?

Now in 20015, a new elementary school is being pushed aside even when the need is evident. The district owns two parcels of land for a third elementary school. The school district looks past the real need and opts to create construction disruptions across the district. As the late Yogi Berra said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.”

The district continues to accept out-of-district students when our schools and classrooms are overcrowded. Discontinue admitting out-of-district students at the middle school until enrollment comes under control. That is a more simple and affordable solution.

State law does permit all overcrowded schools and districts to deny out-of-district students. The district administrators should not misstate the law and try to tell us differently.

Let’s not make decisions that create learning disruptions for our elementary and middle school students. Monitor and adjust the out-of-district enrollment at the middle school and address the need for a new elementary school.

Twenty-four years later, it’s time for a third elementary school. It’s time to simplify the plan and do what is affordable, right and needed.

Steve Kaufman

Former principal of Soda Creek Elementary, 1980 to 2000

John DeVincentis

Former principal of Strawberry Park Elementary, 1984 to 2005


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