Steamboat school board receives updates on construction, graduation |

Steamboat school board receives updates on construction, graduation

Heavy equipment and crews were moving lots of dirt Tuesday afternoon at the site of the new Steamboat Springs School District pre-K through eighth-grade school on the west side of town.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Contractors are beginning to mobilize on the new pre-K through eighth-grade school near Steamboat II as well as the first phase of priority projects, owner’s representative Colleen Kaneda said in an update to the Steamboat Springs School Board at its regular meeting Monday.

For the new school, the design is being finalized, and building permits are being submitted. The Design Advisory Group will have its last meeting Thursday.

The first phase of priority projects at existing campuses include renovations to Steamboat Springs Middle School, Soda Creek Elementary School and Strawberry Park Middle School. And on the second-phase projects — Steamboat Springs High School, Yampa Valley High School, the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs and North Routt Community Charter School — the district is starting to dig deeper into the design process, Kaneda said.

Kaneda provided a list of local professionals working on the projects and said she would continue to update that list as more local subcontractors are hired, as well as provide an ongoing tabulation of local dollars being spent in the community.

The construction firms have submitted their COVID-19-related mitigation plans to county health officials, Kaneda said, and continue to pay close attention to evolving local and state guidelines.

All workers will be adhering to the social distancing and personal protective equipment guidelines, Kaneda said, and those regulations will be communicated regularly to the work crews.

There will be temperature checks on every worker when they arrive on the site, she said, as well as daily symptom surveys and PPE provided. If supervisors find workers are not complying, Kaneda said, they will be sent home.

On both the priority projects and the new school, there will be limited interaction with the public, she noted.

There may be workers who travel home outside Routt County on the weekends, Kaneda noted, but that is being limited as much as possible, and county officials have been made aware of the situation. Those workers will be required to adhere to all guidelines here and in their home communities, she said.

For the first few months with the work including surveying, earthwork, concrete and underground plumbing, the crews are based in the county or are living here, she said.

There also have been some supervisors and project engineers who have relocated to Routt County, and won’t be traveling, Kaneda added.

“We will adapt to the new reality of working through a pandemic,” she said.

Kaneda also addressed questions she and board members have received about why they are starting a major construction project in the middle of a pandemic.

For one, Kaneda noted the bond is voter approved, and spending needs to be executed as per the ballot language and a timeline in which the money needs to be spent to avoid penalties.

In terms of stopping everything and rebidding everything, Kaneda noted the vast majority of the construction expense goes to subcontractors, which are bidding now.

“They are seeing more competitive bidding, and so hopefully, better value for the school district because of the quantity of the bids,” Kaneda said.

She attributed that, potentially, to the uncertainty in the market and the certainty of district’s bond money.

Kaneda said the district is anticipating interruptions in the supply chain and will make an effort to order supplies early.

“The industry is global,” she said.

During public comment, one neighbor of the new school site expressed concern about overhead power lines. 

Update on graduation

Steamboat Springs High School Assistant Principal Dennis Alt said the health of the community and adherence to county and state guidelines were being prioritized when it comes to decisions about graduation. Sticking with the May 30 date, Alt said, was done to ensure maximum participation and to provide something definitive for students and their families.

Alt said he’s reached out to local and state officials for guidance, and at this time, the high school will continue planning an online production and “looking for creative ways to honor seniors and celebrate the senior class.”

If guidelines loosen up before May 30, the school will be able to stay somewhat flexible, he said. From a banner to a slideshow, yard signs and increased coverage in the newspaper, Alt noted a number of efforts already underway.

Alt said the high school has met several times with a production company and are discussing having each student come to the school to receive their cap and gown, potentially answer some questions and record thank yous.

The administration is also meeting regularly with senior class officers, Alt said.

Board member Katy Lee noted three board members have high school seniors.

“We are experiencing all their emotions with them,” Lee said.

Budget discussions

While numbers from the state and the Education Fund Board will be finalized in mid- to late-May, Finance Director Mark Rydberg said at this time, he is estimating cuts in the neighborhood of 10%, which are primarily coming from anticipated per-pupil funding decreases at the state level.

“Last time we met, I said things are going to be rocky,” he said. “They are going to be more rocky.”

For now, Rydberg gave board members a range of the cuts— from 7.5% to 17.5%. By law, the state can’t hold back more than 17.5%, Rydberg said. For the district, that means a deficit of anywhere from about $1.7 million to $4 million.

Rydberg and Superintendent Brad Meeks noted they don’t know what school will look like in the fall, and they don’t know when they will know whether students will be back in buildings, likely in staggered schedules, or if they will continuing with distance learning. That will obviously impact the budget, Rydberg said, and so he is looking at planning parallel budgets — one for distance learning and one for in-school learning.

Rydberg said he’s already identified about $2 million in possible budget reductions.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.

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