Paula Stephenson: What new schools mean
August 26, 2015
Whether or not we want to invest in our public schools is one of the most significant questions voters will be asked to answer this fall. To date, the public discussion has focused on the figures and their impact on taxpayers, but the bottom line should be about how this project will impact our children.
First and foremost, the proposed building improvements will alleviate overcrowding at both elementary schools and the middle school, reducing class sizes for the youngest learners and providing a better variety of learning spaces for teachers and students to interact.
In addition, preschool would be incorporated into the elementary campuses, allowing the district to create a seamless learning and instructional program from the earliest age through graduation. The creation of a split lower and upper elementary campus at Strawberry Park also keeps the youngest, most vulnerable students, centrally located downtown.
In each school, small group learning spaces, used for special education, English language learners, various interventions and small class breakouts, will be created so teachers and children can concentrate on learning versus managing distractions in too-tight classrooms and hallways. Creative spaces, dedicated art and music classrooms and innovative STEM /makerspace labs with more broadband access will also be incorporated, providing students the type of broad and rich instructional opportunities they need to explore their varied interests and build upon their academic careers.
Because one of the best predictors of success in school and life is participation in extra-curricular activities, the playgrounds, gymnasiums, auditoriums and athletic facilities will all be enlarged and enhanced. In addition to allowing for the continued support of the numerous sports and clubs at the high school (only Cherry Creek High School has more), these improvements will also allow students to participate in after-school activities and get home at a decent time versus squeezing in practice, some times as late as 9 p.m. because the current facilities are too stressed to accommodate all the activities.
All this will be done with zero to minimal impact on student learning during construction, because the vast majority of the work on the split lower and upper elementary campus at Strawberry Park, improvements to Soda Creek and the relocation of the middle school and Yampa Valley High School will be done during the summer, when students are not in school.
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The construction of a new high school on the west end of town means no need for another "Camp Soda Creek" or construction crews in the building during the school year.
My boys are students in first and third grades at Soda Creek (the bubble classes), so I see the impacts of overcrowding each time I walk into the school. The principals and teachers are great, but they have done all they can to continue to provide an outstanding learning environment.
Now it's time for the community to step up and support a long-term solution. The proposed construction plan absolutely relieves overcrowding and provides real educational benefits to the students in each of our schools and for my boys as they move from primary school through graduation. And that is what this is about — our children.
For these reasons, I will be supporting the bond issue on the ballot this fall, and I urge you to do the same.