Routt school districts look to Fund Board for broadband boost |

Routt school districts look to Fund Board for broadband boost

Steamboat Springs High School freshman Steven Baumgartner works on a podcast in the computer lab of the high school Monday afternoon. Technology improvements, including increased bandwidth, are among the things Routt County school districts will ask the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board to fund for the 2012-13 school year at a Wednesday meeting.
John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs Fund Board grant history

Year: Total amount of grants

2012-2013: $2.5 million (projected)

2011-2012: $2.4 million

2010-2011: $2.2 million

2009-2010: $2.9 million

— With the addition of SmartBoards, computers, iPads and other electronic gizmos to Routt County public schools comes a new need: increased bandwidth.

The South Routt and Hayden school districts are looking to the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board for help. Specifically, South Routt Superintendent Scott Mader said his district is asking the Fund Board to provide $95,000 Soroco would use to purchase and install equipment that would increase the broadband speed between its secondary school campus and its elementary school in Yampa. The proposal calls for the installation of radios on towers at Emerald Mountain and in Oak Creek that also would allow Soroco’s data network to be merged with the network of the Steamboat Springs School District. The two districts currently share technology resources, and Steamboat also is interested in increasing its broadband capabilities, especially at its high school.

“We really need something like this for all of our technology needs to run smoothly,” Mader said of the broadband need in South Routt. “This would increase the (broadband) capacity phenomenally.”

Technology-oriented requests make up 97 percent of the $254,500 in grant requests Soroco is expected to present to the Fund Board by Wednesday.

According to the application submitted to the Fund Board, the tower project aims to increase the bandwidth that is available between South Routt Elementary School and the secondary schools in Oak Creek by more than 100 percent.

In Hayden, Superintendent Mike Luppes said he is looking for a similar boost in bandwidth between the district’s Internet hub at Hayden High School and Hayden Valley Elementary School a few blocks away.

“We would like to make the connection (between the two schools’) wireless,” he said, adding that the $47,000 project would increase the speed of a connection he said the district spends $6,000 per year to run through a T1 line. The wireless connection would cut costs in the long run, Luppes added.

Of the $178,779 worth of grants Hayden will seek from the Fund Board, Luppes said about 70 percent are technology oriented.

Technology improvements, including broadband capability, will be the focus of several of the grant applications Routt County’s public school districts will present to the Fund Board when it meets Wednesday night.

The Steamboat Springs School District is expected to seek a little more than $3 million worth of grants to address needs that include sustaining their Spanish language program at the middle school and supporting its technology staff, among other things. And while the Steamboat Springs School District plans to ask the Fund Board to continue funding its technology staff, it intends to cover the costs of computer hardware and software itself.

“As we handle more of the technology costs in our existing budget, we plan to ask the EFB to instead invest more in effective classrooms and smaller class sizes,” Superintendent Brad Meeks said.

Fund Board President Kristi Brown said Monday that her board is projecting it will dole out $2.5 million worth of grants for the 2012-13 school year, and technology is likely to once again account for a large part of that pot. She said in recent years, funds distributed to the school districts and education-oriented community groups from Steamboat’s half-cent sales tax have been split almost evenly between technology improvements and other grants that aim to reduce classroom sizes and bolster school programs.

“Technology is just so expensive, and it’s such an integral part of their curriculum now,” Brown said.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email

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