Mary Darcy et all: Programs matter most
Before us in November is a ballot question asking us to approve a $92 million bond for a plan that includes constructing a new high school on a site three miles west of downtown. We are part of a pro-education group of parents, coaches, former teachers, former school board members and business owners who believe this is the wrong plan for our schools and our town.
Neither the current capacity and enrollment numbers nor the demographic study commissioned by the school district show a need for a new high school. They do show that we need a new elementary or K-8 school:
■ Soda Creek, SPE K-5 elementary schools: capacity 940, enrollment 1079
■ Middle School 6-8: capacity 550, enrollment 568
■ High School 9-12: capacity 905, enrollment 734 (numbers taken from bond campaign)
The bond supporters say building a new high school is the only and best way to solve all our capacity needs for 20 years, but we disagree. Building new schools is best done as needed, not based upon projections long into the future, mainly because it’s impossible to know future numbers with any accuracy. And we will likely need more money every five to 10 years for capital improvements.
Steamboat is lucky to have such a wonderful, central location for our high school. High school kids can easily be back and forth between school and town several times a day. Internships, sports, afterschool clubs, classes at the college, meetings, concerts, plays, games — the high school is an integral part of town, not just for the kids but for the community. How unwise to put it on a detached parcel, which is not walk or drive friendly to the vast majority of students.
A recent visitor to town, Charles Brewer, had this to say, “I’m not a Steamboat resident but a visitor who wishes the best for this town and a developer familiar with the principles of urban planning. I am astounded that the school board and its advisers have recommended moving the high school to the edge of town and that they have placed so little weight on the importance of having such an important civic institution located within the walkable/bikeable center of town. It is incredibly important, and a key asset to Steamboat.”
Aside from the lack of need and the mistake of moving the high school, there are so many other reasons why this is the wrong plan. It spends $92 million, raising school taxes by at least 46 percent once completed. Commercial property owners pay 3.7 times that of residential, so business owners are going to be hard hit.
It invests a huge amount of our precious tax dollars into buildings and infrastructure, not programs or teachers, which we believe are what matter most. It doesn’t promote neighborhood schools, putting all three of our elementary schools in a one-mile radius. It will add traffic to an already congested downtown.
We think a better plan would take longer to arrive at and would involve much larger, broad-based input. When the Steamboat community gets involved, great things happen.
Possibilities: Add an elementary or K-8 at Whistler and/or the west side of town, thereby creating two neighborhood schools. Consider moving sixth grade back to elementary to free up room at the middle school. Do the necessary improvements and additions at the middle and current high schools. Don’t allow new out-of-district students and then ask for $92 million to solve crowding.
Let’s not be rushed into a big and costly mistake. Vote no.
Kerry Gallagher Solomon
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