Questions about schools remain |

Questions about schools remain

Steamboat School Board asks about preschool, kindergarten

— The location of a new Soda Creek Elementary School is the latest challenge the Steamboat Springs School Board faces.

A majority of community members polled favor the current site, but the possibility of expansion there is limited.

The School Board held a study session Monday to further discuss an estimated $30 million bond issue that would replace Soda Creek Elementary School and renovate Strawberry Park Elementary School. The bond issue likely would be on November’s ballot.

Board members and school administrators spent more than two hours asking questions, expressing the desire to be responsible with taxpayers’ money.

“I don’t think the general public has spent as much time on this as we have,” board member Jeff Troeger said. “The more I hear, the more I get confused, and the more questions I have.”

Results from a survey conducted earlier this year indicated community residents, by a two-to-one ratio, support rebuilding Soda Creek on its existing site, as opposed to options west of town or closer to the mountain.

“It would fail anywhere else,” board member Pat Gleason said. “The question is whether or not you want to do it. You know the cost. You know the timeline. You know the place. Are you going to do it or not?”

Whether the board approves a bond issue – or the preliminary plans – remains up in the air, pending issues related to Steamboat’s youngest students: its preschoolers and kindergartners.

Existing floor plans lacked adequate preschool and kindergarten space should the school district decide to include preschool within district facilities and go to all-day kindergarten, board member John DeVincentis said.

“How much room is there for change in these plans for Soda Creek?” he asked. “This is showing a plan for half-time kindergarten for the next 25 to 30 years. I’m more concerned that when we are done with this, we are already outdated. … That is not satisfactory to me. Right now, I could not support these plans.”

Board members shared DeVincentis’ concern with building a site that may not meet future district needs.

Architect Leland Reece, with Christensen, Reece & Partners, attended the meeting and noted the board’s concerns.

Reece was asked to revise the plans to add an additional two classrooms at Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools and to complete a cost analysis on the revision.

Reece said he could complete those plans within the week.

He and district facilities director Rick Denney also addressed questions about the construction timeline and operational costs raised at the board’s July 28 study session.

He estimated the district could see an estimated increase of $50,000 per year in operational costs with the construction of Soda Creek and the renovation of Strawberry Park.

That total was using current energy rates.

Also on July 28, it was suggested to accelerate development plans to be as complete as possible before November’s election. Reece estimated the process would cost $500,000.

If the board would not support spending that money to bring the plans to a more complete phase, than the district risked pushing the completion date back.

Both timelines had teachers and students moving from the existing Soda Creek site during spring break in April. That timeline would have to be followed if the building would be finished by the 2008-09 school year.

Gleason said he would not support spending $500,000 up front on an investment that may not receive taxpayer support.

“There are a couple things we need to consider,” he said. “No. 1, we don’t want (construction) to go past opening day of 2008. We don’t need (students and teachers) moving two years. No. 2, I will not support the district spending money before the bond passes. It seems that’s where we are.”

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