Forum raises elementary questions

Parking, traffic flow dominate school district meeting Thursday

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— Discussions about parking and traffic flow dominated Thursday's community forum about the Steamboat Springs School District's plans for a new Soda Creek Elementary School and renovation of Strawberry Park Elementary School.

About 40 people attended the two-hour forum and peppered district officials with questions about the planned facilities, for which voters approved a $29.7 million bond issue at the November election.

Although some Soda Creek parents asked about small details such as the amount of space for children's snow boots, pants and other winter gear, much of the discussion centered on parking and traffic flow at the Old Town school.

Bill Fox of Fox Higgins Traffic Engineers began the forum by presenting updated plans for traffic flow at the Soda Creek site. Traffic and parking concerns at Soda Creek have long been a concern for parents and community members.

According to the updated plans, Crawford Avenue would become a one-way street (eastbound) for student drop-off and pick-up. Vehicles would filter around a loop near the main entrance to the school.

"This plan has simplified the drop-off and simplified Crawford," Fox said. "It is a configuration the city can support."

Traffic heading to Soda Creek would be filtered up Eighth Street and down Seventh Street. One audience member expressed concern about the safety of students who walk to and from school.

"We always want to make sure it's as safe as possible," Fox said, adding that he thinks the new traffic-flow model will be safer than what is currently in place, and that the plan is a more efficient way for traffic to move in and out of the Soda Creek area.

Fox said the plan calls for 24 angled parking spots on a lot off Crawford Avenue and an additional three dozen or so spots off Pahwintah Street.

Architect Leland Reece reminded forum attendees on several occasions that the architectural drawings have not been finalized. And while Superintendent Donna Howell said the district is interested in community feedback, the plans need to move forward as quickly as possible if the projects are to be completed by fall 2008.

Most of the questions about the plans for Strawberry Park, which is to be renovated and expanded, involved the design.

Several parents questioned the decision to use the popular school arcade area as a cafeteria, but Strawberry Park Principal Mark MacHale said the decision was made to free up 30 minutes of instruction time.

Parents also questioned the decision to add on at both ends of the school.

"We will look at that," Reece said.

Some attendees also questioned the district's decision to use the George P. Sauer Human Services Center as the temporary site for Soda Creek. School district facilities director Rick Denney and Howell told them there still are more questions than answers about converting the Human Services Center into a temporary school.

- To reach Melinda Mawdsley call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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