School Board OKs language program

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The Steamboat Springs School Board on Monday added a foreign language program and two career classes in district schools, placed the North Routt Community Charter Elementary School on conditional accreditation for a year and approved an external audit of special education services in the district.

The foreign language program, recommended by the district's Curriculum and Ins-truction Program Review Com-mittee, will integrate Span-ish instruction into kindergarten through fifth-grade classes at district elementary schools and expand language requirements at Steamboat Springs Middle School. New staff and materials for the program will cost $110,000, according to the committee's recommendation. About $50,000 of that will be for a full-time staff position, including benefits, at the middle school. That money will be requested from the Education Fund Board.

The Steamboat Springs Middle School Jazz Band livened up Monday's School Board meeting with two instrumental numbers, including a rendition of the 1941 tune "Blues in the Night." Band teacher Ken Crombie led a small ensemble from the middle school band, which includes about 130 students. Students Emmi Birch and Mike Makens gave solo performances on the alto saxophone and trumpet.

"This is some of the awesome talent we have," middle school Principal Tim Bishop said.

Board member Denise Con-nelly, a former language teacher, called the program "a good first step" toward further development of language programs.

Board member John De--Vincentis voted in favor of the program but raised concerns about providing consistent Spanish training for teachers and balancing additional language instruction with other academic areas, especially given rising pressure for students to score highly on standardized tests.

The School Board also approved two new career and technology elective classes -- Fundamentals of Design and Medical Preparation -- to begin next year at the high school.

Superintendent Donna How-ell said the district's long-term plans for the expansion of technology programs include regional collaborations with schools in South Routt, Hayden and Craig, and also with Colorado Mountain College.

At Monday's meeting, the board also renewed the accreditation of each district school for the next three years, a process the board is required to complete every January. The North Routt Community Charter Elementary School received conditional accreditation subject to quarterly reviews, however, because it received a "low" rating on its 2004-05 School Accountability Report issued by the state.

Howell said only eight students were tested for that rating out of 18 enrolled at the time,

making for an inaccurate barometer of the school's performance.

"When you have such a small number of samples, sometimes the information is not as reliable," Howell said.

The board also approved a two-day external audit of special education services and programming at district schools. Four people will conduct the audit March 30 and 31, at a cost to the district of $3,192, Howell said. The auditors plan to meet with school staff, administrators, students and parents. They are: Cheryl Johnson and Melinda Graham, senior consultants in the special needs field with the Colorado Department of Education; Troy Lange, special education director for Colorado Mountain Board of Cooperative Educ-ational Services; and Vicki Hubbard, special education and health services director for the Sherman Independent School District in Dallas.

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