Steph Smith: Focus on the needs
Good teachers increase academic achievement. I believe in supporting teachers and will vote for the teacher mill levy. However, I see major flaws with the district’s bond initiative.
First, the proposed high school pod addition is undersized. After the 2015 bond failed, the Steamboat Springs High School principal acknowledged the community wants to keep the school downtown. In order to accommodate program enhancements and enrollment increases for the next two decades, he requested an additional 12-classroom pod.
This pod was in the original high school design but tabled until enrollment increased. The pod was also part of CC4E’s 2017 recommendation, which was rejected by the school board.
This year, the principal made the request again, which is backed by Superintendent Meeks’ recent letter describing the high school class offered at the administration building due to lack of classroom availability at the high school. However, the school board added only a six-classroom pod to the bond with no public discussion.
Second, the district plans to triple its preschool, which is very costly, adds pressure to already small school sites and can harm community pre-K/infancy programs.
The bond proposes two pre-K classrooms at Soda Creek, Strawberry Park and the new pre-K-8. Each pre-K site is required to have a separate entrance, classrooms, bathrooms, playground and parking lot. The total pre-K bond construction cost is approximately $7-8 million — money that could go to K-12. This pre-K expansion will take away needed money, learning spaces and play areas for existing students and add to current traffic.
CC4E learned when public schools drastically increase pre-K, community preschool/infancy programs often close as families migrate to the lower cost, taxpayer-subsidized district program. This greatly impacts working families who need year-round, 10-hour-per-day programming, which the district does not offer.
Additionally, 3- to 4-year-olds supplement the cost of infancy care for community centers and home child caregivers. Without preschoolers, infancy care is too expensive. We have a dire need for infancy care in Steamboat, and the district’s plan could negatively impact its availability.
Yes, pre-K is important, but there is no evidence that district preschool prepares students more than community programs. And most importantly, there is currently a surplus of preschool slots in our community, including those to serve children with identified needs.
Our district is prioritizing pre-K over high school needs. Please consider what our students/schools really need before voting.
Steph Smith, CC4E member
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