School district has wish list

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The school district needs money to teach its fastest-growing demographic: English language learners.

At a meeting of the Education Fund Board on Tuesday night, Steamboat Springs School District Super--intendent Donna Howell presented a list of 19 funding requests to the board, which determines how to allocate more than $2 million annually in revenues from a half-cent sales tax.

On top of Howell's request list is $150,000 to pay two full-time teachers and several part-time aides. If funded by the board, those employees will help teach the district's rapidly growing number of ELL students. Howell said ELL enrollment nearly doubled this year, from 34 students to 64, making more staff a necessity.

"That (item) came up as No. 1 because the staff is feeling the strain," Howell said.

A team consisting of Howell, the four public school principals, district Operations and Finance Director Dale Mellor and district Curriculum and Instruction Director Ann Sims created the list of funding requests.

Also on the list is $100,000 for two full-time teachers to instruct gifted and talented students, $110,000 for a foreign language program and $9,060 to begin an Accelerated Reader program at North Routt County Charter School.

Requests to give money to the charter school, for the reading program and several computers, raised questions with some Fund Board members.

"Over the years, the discussion has always been how much money for how many kids," board member Harry Lambart said, citing the enrollment of only about 30 students in the charter school as opposed to hundreds in public schools with other funding needs.

"We understand this is a controversial issue," Howell said. "Some of those kids are coming to us when they enter (Steamboat Springs) high school."

When combined with ongoing funding needs such as a grant writer, district administrative staff, technology upgrades and teachers to ensure small class sizes, the district's requests total more than $2.3 million.

Fund Board Treasurer Tom Ptach said projected revenues from the sales tax in fiscal year 2005-06 are $2.4 million. In addition to those revenues, the board has a reserve fund of about $2.9 million.

In other business Tuesday, former School Board member Michael Loomis officially was made a member of the Fund Board, as a community-at-large representative, and an allocation of $8,500 was approved for the installation of security cameras on all 14 district school buses.

The Fund Board aims to finalize its funding allocations for the 2006-07 school year in March.

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