Expansion on drawing board

Administrators seek options for middle school

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— The Steamboat Springs Educational Fund Board approved funding for the architectural drawings of an expansion to Steamboat Springs Middle School.

The middle school has been in need of extra classrooms to accommodate the growing number of students, said Rick Denney, district facilities director. To account for the immediate need for extra classrooms, the middle school's gym was remodeled last summer into a two-story room that added two additional classrooms and a mat room for wrestling practice.

However, this addition was only a temporary solution to the growing problem.

Denney said the options for adding classrooms to the existing middle school were explored for cost effectiveness. He said adding an expansion to the back of the building would be the most cost effective because building within the school's infrastructure would require replacing portions of the ventilation system.

The $75,000 gift from the fund board will allow Denney to get architectural drawings of the expansion and determine its cost.

He said getting funds for the design work is only the beginning and hopes he will receive funding for the expansion as well.

Denney said if funding is not approved, the district will have to find other funding options that may include trying to pass a bond during the next election. Ideally, he said, he would like the construction to begin this summer so the expansion could be completed by the 2003-04 school year.

In addition to the middle school expansion, the fund board heard the first reading of a proposal request for three aides in the third grade at Strawberry Park Elementary.

"We are trying to give students more time with a teacher or aide we're hoping it will result in an increase in education," Strawberry Park Principal John DeVincentis said.

DeVincentis said the ideal situation would be to have an additional teacher in the third grade to reduce the class size of 23, which is the current number of students in third-grade classes at Strawberry Park. He said with the school year in progress, adding a new teacher would not be the best option.

With new aides, who will receive training and be integrated into the classrooms, DeVincentis said he hopes students will have the same benefit of having a smaller class size.

The current third-grade class has had a larger class size since the students' first-grade year, DeVincentis said.

He said parents have addressed their concerns about having a continually higher class size because of evidence showing the benefit of small classes from the kindergarten through third-grade years.

The fund board will be issuing a proxy vote on the issue in the next couple of days to ensure aides will be added to the classrooms as quickly as possible if the proposal passes.

"We have never not been responsive to a commission who needs a quick answer," said Jim Gill, fund board chairman.

DeVincentis said he approached the Educational Excellence Commission in the spring with the idea of hiring an additional teacher, but at that time, the class sizes were 21, 22 and 23 students in the third grade at Strawberry Park, and educational excellence commission members did not feel an additional teacher was necessary.

But with the addition of more students than projected at the school, the educational excellence commission supported the addition of three aides not to exceed the cost of $40,000.

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