Steamboat school district needs public’s help naming new school |

Steamboat school district needs public’s help naming new school

A preliminary design for the new pre-K through eighth-grade school on the Steamboat Springs School District land in Steamboat II. No final decisions have been made.
Courtesy graphic

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Starting Tuesday, the community is invited to send in name suggestions for the new pre-K through eighth grade school the Steamboat Springs School District will be building near Steamboat II on the west side of town. And the more people know about the history of the area, the more interesting and significant the names could get.

“If you come up with some historical name with a cool history behind it, that would be more interesting to us,” said Erica Hewitt, a historic preservation consultant that’s on the 11-person committee that will eventually take three names to the school board for final approval.

School district policy calls for naming schools based on their physical locations and geographic areas.

All one has to do is look at the history of rural schools in the area to find ideas about naming the schools. Tread of Pioneers Museum Curator Katie Adams said names range from whimsical to practical.

She said the old Cow Creek School was named for the area where an early settler found a lost cow with a new calf somewhere along the creek.

Adams also gets a kick out of the name Bullpen, an old school once located on Elkhead Creek.

“It’s so strange. … Bullpen School is located on Bull Gulch, which took its name from the cattle outfits who held their bulls there for mating,” Adams said.

Local historian Arianthe Stettner encourages everyone to get involved and have fun coming up with possible names for the new school.

“For me, I’m trying to figure out what happened on this school site … look at the geography of the area,” Stettner advised.

How some area schools got their name?

Bullpen: Built on the Dry Fork of Elkhead Creek, this school was called Bullpen School because it was situated on Bull Gulch. The gulch took its name from the fact that big cattle outfits once held their breeding bulls there until it was time to turn them out on the range with the cows

Pleasant Valley: The location of the school was first occupied by the Monson family. It was named Pleasant Valley by Ida Monson in 1886 for its beauty.

Strawberry Park Elementary School: This school was named for the Strawberry Park area just north of downtown Steamboat Springs, once known for its field of strawberries.

Cow Creek: This school was named after an early settler who found a lost cow with a new calf somewhere along the creek.

Mesa Schoolhouse: This school is located on the mesa south of Steamboat Springs.

Source: Tread of Pioneers Museum

Sure enough, local residents and generational ranchers near the school site are offering up tidbits of history to help people cogitate on possible names.

“The main property was the Bowden family homestead, and it was a grain and dairy farm,” said Jim Stanko, whose family has farmed and ranched in the Yampa Valley for generations. “When I grew up, that area was all grain farms. I have a 1952 aerial picture where you can see the grain shocks in the field.”

Stanko explained grain shocks are how they used to cut the grain and bundle them up to keep the grain heads off the ground before the days of combines.

Stanko also said in the old days they called Routt County Road 42, “4-Mile Road,” which is the turnoff for the new school. 

Rita Donham lives across U.S. Highway 40 from the new school site on the old Saxton homestead where she said there are still crabapple and apple trees planted by the homesteaders.

“Their old root cellar and house foundations are still here,” Donham said. “He (Saxton) would put his children in a large bucket and send them on a cable across the river, where they hiked to the little schoolhouse on Twentymile Road.”

Before the coronavirus outbreak, Steamboat Springs School Board member Lara Craig had hoped to get schools involved in coming up with name suggestions, but efforts have been scaled back. Now, the district is putting out links to the Google voting document to administrators and teachers to pass on to their students at home.

“We thought it would be a fun way to show we’re still in the game, that we’re not so overly myopic about COVID-19,” Craig said. “We really want everyone to participate and thought it might be a good distraction right now.”

The school naming submission form can be found here. The district will also have the voting Google document listed on its website at

The naming committee will take the best three name choices and submit them to the school board, which will make the final choice. Submissions will be accepted until April 15.

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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