School board settles on new kindergarten to 8th-grade campus at Steamboat II
Editor’s note: This story was edited to reflect $55 million as the correct estimated cost of the proposed kindergarten to eighth-grade school at Steamboat II.
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Steamboat Springs Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to go to voters with a proposal to build a kindergarten through eighth-grade school.
Two weeks ago, board members voted to build the new school on the district’s Steamboat II property. At that meeting, they also narrowed the choices for school type to a kindergarten to fourth-grade school or a kindergarten to eighth-grade school.
The future of the school is dependent on whether voters agree to pass a bond in November, which is estimated at $55 million for the new building, plus another approximately $20 million for priority projects at existing schools.
The total bond amount could be $83.9 million, but this is only a preliminary estimate.
Prior to their vote, the board members heard from a group of educators who toured neighboring school districts to see some recently constructed buildings and learn more about different grade configurations.
They visited Eagle Valley Elementary School, Basalt Middle School and Riverview, a new preschool to eighth-grade school in Glenwood Springs.
Soda Creek Elementary School Principal Michele Miller spoke in support of adding preschool to her school. The resources she saw provided to families, staff and students with the inclusion of preschool were “amazing,” Miller said.
Jay Hamric, the district’s director of teaching and learning, said he was impressed by the architecture at Riverview, calling it a “flexible, creative space that inspires students.”
Their recommendation, Hamric said, was to gradually add seventh and eighth grades to the new school.
Wendy Hall, head volleyball coach and P.E. teacher at Steamboat Springs Middle School, said she was struck by the “calmness” at the schools that were not at or over capacity.
“We are so overcrowded now that we have more behavioral issues,” Hall said.
Hall added she was impressed by the mentorship from the older students to younger ones at Riverview and the sense of community. She said she’d seen that closeness disappear as her school has grown.
“We are outdated,” Hall said. “We needed to do something years ago. Don’t wait any longer. Take care of our kids now.”
The consensus among the board members was that building a kindergarten through eighth-grade school — potentially with preschool — would provide a flexibility for repurposing in the future and would provide relief for current overcrowding in the elementary and middle schools.
The kindergarten through eighth-grade option also was noted as popular with the advisory committee, who spent about a year looking at options to address the overcrowding issue. And it was seen as costing less than building a new middle school, or two new elementary schools, which were also top scenarios.
Steamboat Schools Board of Education special meeting
When: 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 5
Board member Katy Lee, who participated in the school tour, said she liked the idea of a kindergarten to eighth-grade school providing a different choice for the community and opening up possibilities for a school focused on STEM or dual language immersion, like at Riverview.
Monday’s meeting, held at Bud Werner Memorial Library, drew a much smaller crowd than the May 20 meeting to determine site selection.
But there was still concern expressed about moving forward with the current plan.
Chris Johnson and Robin Schepper of Community Committee for Education — or CC4E — recommended the board delay moving forward with a new school for a year or two, and instead, focus on the priority projects, thus passing a bond not exceeding $25 million.
Composed of various stakeholders, the CC4E group spent about a year and a half gathering community input after the proposed $92 million bond was rejected by 79% of voters in 2015.
Johnson and Schepper said they were concerned a bond over $75 million would fail again.
Johnson listed several “tenets” she hoped the board would keep at the forefront, cost being the first.
“A tax increase can be especially hard for seniors on a fixed income, young people working three jobs to be able to live here and commercial property owners,” Johnson said. “We need to remember that only 30% of our population have kids in the schools.”
Johnson also urged due diligence, transparency and the fostering of partnerships to leverage resources.
“There remain unanswered questions about water, sewer, siting of the school, transportation infrastructure, traffic, redistricting and more,” she said.
“A delay would allow the demographics to play out,” Schepper said. “It would allow more time for demonstrating to the public that a new school is necessary.”
Larry Jordan, who lives in Steamboat II, said he felt the board was moving too fast, and he couldn’t get behind the proposal at this time because of safety concerns.
But now that the decisions have been made on both location and school type, the board will work on narrowing down an extensive list of upgrades at existing facilities to those deemed highest priority.
Had they voted instead to build a new kindergarten to fourth-grade school, Strawberry Park Elementary School would have been converted into a middle school.
The board will hold a special meeting on at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 5, to further discuss priority projects, as well as to decide whether to include a preschool in the new building and whether to add preschool to Soda Creek and/or Strawberry Park elementary schools.
To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.
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