Our View: Vote ‘yes’ on 4B and 4C
Since 2015, the Steamboat Springs School District has been hosting meetings, creating advisory committees and conducting surveys with the aim of engaging the community to come up with viable solutions to address the district’s issue of school overcrowding.
During that span of time, a bond issue to build a new high school was defeated by a wide margin, and the district responded by putting together the Community Committee for Education, which included those who supported the high school bond issue and those who fought against it. That group came up with recommendations that resulted in a successful 2017 bond issue to cover maintenance and improvements on existing facilities. At that time, the advisory group and the school board indicated the 2017 project was a temporary fix, and the district would need to build a new school in a few years.
Referendums 4B and 4C are that promised, permanent, long-term fix to the district’s capacity issues. We think it’s time to stop kicking the can down the road, and we ask local voters to approve both ballot issues.
Our readers may be wondering why we changed course from a June 26 editorial in which we encouraged the school board to “proceed with caution” and consider pursuing a less-expensive bond issue that we suggested was more likely to gain voter approval.
The shift in perspective resulted from hours of lengthy discussion and debate among our current editorial board members as well as time spent researching school capacity issues and listening to both opponents and proponents of 4B and 4C.
In the end, the difference-maker was the three-hour tour our editorial board took of the schools. All four members of the board toured every building while school was in session. Our questions were answered openly by building principals, the superintendent and the maintenance director, and we saw with our own eyes the issues of overcrowding and how it impacts students’ education.
At issue: Steamboat Springs voters are being asked to approve Referendums 4B and 4C — a $79.5 million bond initiative to fund construction of a new school at Steamboat II and improvements and construction projects at all district schools and an accompanying 2-mill levy override.
Our View: Voting “yes” on referendums 4B and 4C will solve school capacity issues and provide the district space to provide local students with excellent educational opportunities.
- Logan Molen, publisher
- Lisa Schlichtman, editor
- Michael Marchand, community representative
- Jim Beers, community representative
We couldn’t shake the images of packed cafetoriums and kids eating in the atrium at both Strawberry Park campuses, special education classes taught on the gym stage and counselors meeting with students in former janitorial closets. The sheer noise of so many students jammed together in spaces not meant for what they were being used for was startling and could not be ignored.
For those who still doubt the need for a new school, we suggest they tour the schools at lunchtime. That experience will erase all doubts, and there is no amount of renovations or new additions that can fix those kind of space challenges. Teachers and district administrators have done the best job they can to engineer creative solutions to serve our students, but we concur with the Yes to Education Committee in believing “we can do better.”
Our opinion also changed after Steamboat voters approved the West Steamboat Neighborhoods annexation in June, which further confirmed what we’ve known for a long time — our city is growing to the west, and a new school should be located in an area where working families live.
All of our schools, outside of North Routt Community Charter School in Clark, are located in the vicinity of downtown, where only 50% of the homes are owned by full-time residents, as compared to Silver Spur, Heritage Park and Steamboat II, where 93% of the homeowners are locals. The kids who live in these areas west of town deserve a neighborhood school, too, and the number of families living west of downtown will only keep increasing as West Steamboat Neighborhoods, Sunlight and Overlook develop in the coming years.
We believe the time is now for the Steamboat Springs School District to build a new school in West Steamboat — something the district has not done in 40 years. The Soda Creek Elementary School was not a new school but a replacement, and the district is long overdue for a new campus, which will offer more space to help ease capacity issues at existing schools while offering the district the opportunity for innovation and flexibility, which are desperately needed to provide our students with a world-class education.
We also support the ballot issues because the total bond package touches every campus from North Routt Community Charter School to Yampa Valley High School.
Referendums 4B and 4C are not a perfect plan, but they are necessary. The ballot measures represent a sizable ask, but we believe this type of investment in our students and our schools enriches the entire community and empowers Steamboat’s most precious resource — its youth.
Those on both sides of the issue have stated Steamboat voters have never failed to step up and meet a need in the community. We believe the school district has engaged the community and demonstrated the need for a new school during past and present campaigns, and now voters need to respond by voting “yes” on 4B and 4C to provide the district with the resources and support it needs to grow, thrive and continue providing students with the high quality of education that Steamboat families expect and deserve.
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