Mayling Simpson: Considering a new school
Ballot issue 4C asks our community to vote for a new preK-8 school to be located near Steamboat II. There has been debate over whether or when our student population will increase enough to justify a new school. I would like to share my personal perspective.
In the 34 years that I have been a resident of Steamboat Springs, the student population has grown from 1,508 to 2,630 today, an increase of 1,122 students. In 1985, the year I moved here, Routt County was in a recession, and we could not imagine our student population increasing but increase it did. It increased an average of 33 students per year.
In small populations, such as ours, student count is up and down year by year, but we have had average long-term growth. Out of the past 34 years, only eight years had any decline in enrollment, and those declines were very small. I cannot imagine this trend reversing anytime soon.
According to the KIDS COUNT Data Book 2019, Colorado’s child population increased by 43 percent since 1990. People continue to move into the state from other states and countries. While some rural counties are decreasing in population, Routt County is one that is still growing.
If our school district adds another 1,122 in the next 34 years, then within the next 17 years we will need to accommodate 561 additional students. The new proposed school would have a capacity of 520 students, and additions to the high school would accommodate 100 to 150 more students.
These new constructions will immediately alleviate the current serious overcrowding in our schools. The new school would open in 2021 with 240 students in grades pre-K to fifth and would add a grade each year for the next three years.
It has been suggested that if the school district rejects its 111 out-of-district students next year, that we would not need to build a new school or expand the high school. If we don’t pass this bond and we reject these students to make space, at the current rate of growth, in three years, we would again be as over-full as today.
A new school and other school additions is a reasonable request. I also support the pay raise for teachers. Vote “yes” for ballot questions 4A, 4B and 4C on Nov. 5.
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