Marcia Martin: Overcrowding is an issue Steamboat Schools must address now
Overcrowding in Steamboat Springs schools isn’t just a matter of numbers of students, although most of our schools are at or near 100% capacity. It isn’t just a matter of a handful of out-of-district students. It isn’t something that a downward blip in enrollment in a long-term pattern of growth will remedy.
Occupying a school at maximum capacity is not ideal or even healthy. One hundred percent occupancy is not a goal; it is a limit. Planning for new construction should take place well before buildings reach 100% occupancy. In this regard, the school district is already behind.
Overcrowding increases noise levels and decreases personal space. Conflicts and aggressive behaviors rise in overcrowded spaces. Overcrowding creates pressure that leads to deterioration of the learning environment.
When I started teaching at Strawberry Park Elementary School in 1982, there was room to breathe. There were empty classrooms which soon found other uses. One became a workroom for paraprofessional staff, and in a few years, another became the school’s first computer lab.
As classrooms were needed for growing enrollment, the workroom was moved into a smaller space that had once been a special education conference room, and the computer lab was moved to a trailer. More trailers followed as more classrooms were needed, and eventually, an addition replaced trailers.
All this happened without increasing the common spaces or the campus size. At the same time, the middle school was experiencing similar growth.
Additions to Strawberry Park Elementary and the Steamboat Springs Middle School proposed in the bond question might temporarily relieve some of the pressure, but only a reduction in the number of students on the campus will truly allow students the room they need to learn in a healthy environment.
Each of our schools has its own story of overcrowding. Each of our schools needs relief.
As a member of the School District Advisory Committee and a retired teacher, I am aware of the amount of study and reflection that has gone into these issues, and I support the board of education’s decision to propose building a new prekindergarten through eighth-grade school along with additions and renovations to the existing buildings.
This is a thoughtful, flexible and fiscally responsible plan to meet current and future needs. I urge you to keep the bigger picture in mind and support the school district in meeting the needs of its students by voting “yes” on this necessary bond.
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