Steamboat school board will make third attempt to break away from regional board |

Steamboat school board will make third attempt to break away from regional board

Attempts to leave the Northwest BOCES failed in 2013 and 2021, but officials are optimisitc

Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect that Steamboat Springs School District’s 2021 attempt to form an administrative unit was called off when an agreement was struck allowing the district more autonomy. Chris Eberhardt, Executive Director of the Northwest Board of Cooperative Educational Services, said because of that compromise, the district didn’t submit an application to state officials.

The Steamboat Springs Board of Education voted to again try to split from the Northwest Board of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES, and form its own administrative unit on Monday, Dec. 12.

The breakaway, which was shot down by state regulators in 2013 and stopped because of a compromise in 2021, would give the district more autonomy over programs like special education, professional learning and other services the BOCES provides districts across four Northwest Colorado counties.

As with previous attempts, officials feel taking this step would allow the district to more efficiently and effectively deliver these programs. Like with last year’s attempt — which ultimately led to a compromise agreement between the district and the BOCES — there is optimism this application will be approved at the state level.

“It seems like we’re in a better position this time,” said school board member Kim Brack, who has also sat as the district representative on the BOCES board. “I think since we’ve started the process and we have our own (special education) people, I think I’m optimistic.”

The application to leave the cooperative board isn’t due until September, but the school board unanimously passed a resolution to pursue that application on Monday.

When the district pursued this step last year, then Superintendent Brad Meeks said he was optimistic it would be approved by the Colorado Department of Education because districts in Aspen and Summit County had been recently given the OK to break away.

But the district never went through with that application and instead struck an agreement with the BOCES that gave Steamboat more control by hiring its own school psychologists, therapists and other specialized staff, while remaining a voting member in the BOCES.

“When the new operating agreement occurred, they had the opportunity to hire their own staff and have autonomy with that staff,” said Chris Eberhardt, executive director of the Northwest BOCES.

Steamboat Superintendent Celine Wicks said the district now has a Director of Exceptional Student Services and its own special education staff, which could aid the district to get approval this time.

If approved by the Department of Education and Steamboat is allowed to form its own administrative unit, the district would still be able to contract with the BOCES for services if needed, but Steamboat would no longer have a voting member on the BOCES board.

The Moffat County School District is already an associate, non-voting member of the BOCES, Wicks said. If approved, Steamboat would be in a similar position.

“We would be an associate member with the BOCES, so just like Moffat County,” Wicks said. “Our special education staff would be in-house at that point. A lot of times when I’m looking at what Moffat does, it’s more advisory than anything else.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.