Price tag: nearly $30M |

Price tag: nearly $30M

Board ponders future of Steamboat Springs elementary schools

— The Steamboat Springs School Board has until the end of August to decide whether it will ask taxpayers to support an estimated $30 million bond issue.

Construction of a new Soda Creek Elementary School on its existing site downtown is estimated to cost $19.48 million.

Adding on to and remodeling Strawberry Park Elementary School is estimated to cost $8.26 million.

Ballot issues must be certified by Routt County officially by mid-September.

The board reviewed plans, costs and construction timelines from Christiansen, Reece & Partners, P.C., at Monday’s special study session.

“We would end up with two schools that would enhance the educational environment, maximize space and flexibility for the future,” Superintendent Donna Howell said.

The community also would end up with two elementary schools of comparable square footage and amount of space allocated to classrooms.

Monday’s meeting was held to provide specific information to board members, and architects Brian Risley and Leland Reece were there to answer questions.

Board members spent nearly two hours in discussion with the two architects.

Howell and board members Tom Miller-Freutel, Jeff Troeger and Pat Gleason sought input from Soda Creek Elementary School Principal Judy Harris, Strawberry Park Elementary School Principal Mark MacHale and district facilities Director Rick Denney.

Board members Denise Connelly and John DeVincentis were not at Monday’s meeting.

Earlier this summer, Harris toured the Prairie Hills Elementary School in Thornton with Reece. Design elements from the Front Range school are visible in the initial plans for Soda Creek, including an open media center near the main entrance of the two-story building.

“The concept is exciting,” Harris said. “I like the idea of having a media center be the heart of the school.”

Architects also planned Soda Creek with residents’ concerns in mind.

“The new footprint will be much more compact and maximize the space, separating buses from visitor parking,” Risley said. “Traffic flow has been a major issue at this site. We feel this will be an improvement.”

During Soda Creek construction, Strawberry Park would receive an addition and a remodeling, pending final approval. The first addition would extend off the north end of the building. The administrative offices will be added at the south end.

The remodeling would improve airflow in the school. Both schools have ventilation concerns, but Soda Creek’s will be addressed during construction.

“I think it’s a great design,” MacHale said. “I’m equally excited about getting some good air flow into that building. If you are looking at first-class facilities, that’s something that needs to be done. We have classrooms that get into the high 80s. That’s not a real good learning environment.”

During Soda Creek construction, those students would be moved to the George P. Sauer Human Services Center for the final six weeks of the 2006-07 school year, in addition to the entire 2007-08 school year.

“I sure want to make sure the kids are getting the same education that they would get at the old school,” Troeger said.

Harris responded with confidence, saying the teachers and parents would put together plans to make the 2007-08 school year “the best ever” at Soda Creek.

“We will be kicking in as a team,” Harris said. “Kids are adaptable as long as we, meaning the adults, are confident.”

Board members posed a series of questions to Denney and the architecture team that they want to see answered at the Aug. 14 board meeting.

Questions included issues such as operational costs, use of alternative-energy sources, the possibility of compressing the construction timeline, modular classrooms and the Education Fund Board’s ability to help pay for design and engineering costs before construction begins.

The School Board already approved a Fund Board gift for a $1.25 million addition to Steamboat Springs Middle School — $950,000 was in cash this fiscal year, and the other $300,000 is a loan the Fund Board will pay for as part of its 2007-08 budget.

“I would be hesitant,” said Gleason, who also is a Fund Board member, about asking the Fund Board to pay for designs. “The reserve, and whether people want to touch that, is a concern.”

The next board study session is Aug. 14 at the Human Services Center. The future of the elementary schools will be on the agenda.

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