Kristy T. Milliken: Now is time to learn about Steamboat Schools’ plans to build for future
February 4, 2019
In January 2018, I volunteered to serve on the Steamboat Springs School District Advisory Committee and Academic Programs Subcommittee. As both a parent and an educator in the field of higher education, I wanted to learn about my community schools.
I was aware that our school district is state and nationally recognized. Hence, I expected to find high-quality instruction in superior facilities. What I found instead was superior instruction in suboptimal facilities due to overcrowding.
Crowded school facilities affect our children. Small-group work takes place in hallways; support and counseling staff work in closets or hallways; space for science and STEM laboratories is yet to be identified; students have no room for snow gear; lockers are too small to store required books and supplies; and spaces are insufficient for all-school assemblies. Hallway congestion inside buildings and drop-off/pick-up traffic congestion outside schools create tension, stress, and safety issues for students, educators, parents and neighbors.
What can we do? Simply add more modulars? Maybe increase class sizes? Stand by as lunchrooms, gymnasiums, small-group/collaboration spaces, theaters/music rooms, playgrounds and common areas hold more students than they were safely built to serve?
Fortunately, over the past year, a committee of community member, parent and educator volunteers has been working on practical solutions. These solutions align with the values of our community: maintaining reasonable and effective class sizes in neighborhood schools, providing whole-child education, providing instruction that prioritizes teaching to each child and establishing an inclusive community atmosphere.
The Academic Programs Subcommittee specifically considered peer-reviewed studies that dealt with class size, school size and grade configuration. We also investigated the district's current and future academic programing needs.
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Whether you believe that Steamboat's student population is stabilizing or will continue to increase, the fact is our school facilities are full now and several of our sites are not conducive to expansion. At least one new facility is needed — at the elementary or middle school level — on a new site. Investments are also needed at Steamboat Springs High School, Yampa Valley High School and North Routt Community Charter School.
Schools are entwined with the strength and resilience of the community. As a community invests in schools, it also gains resources — gym and field spaces, community-group meeting facilities, etc. Now is the time to learn about the Steamboat Springs School District's work to build for the future. You can find out more by visiting https://buildingforthefuture.ssk12.org.
Kristy T. Milliken, PhD