School Board not ready to finalize facilities plan

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While acknowledging a sense of urgency from district principals, the Steamboat Springs School Board decided Monday night that it needs more time and information before developing a plan to improve district facilities including Soda Creek Elementary School, Strawberry Park Elementary School and the George P. Sauer Human Services Center.

"This is such a large-scale issue," board President Tom Miller-Freutel said. "Just the facilities (plan) itself is beyond the scope of this group."

Well after 11 p.m., board members continued to discuss the numerous ramifications involved in renovating Soda Creek, rebuilding a new school on that site or building a new elementary school on district-owned property in southeast Steamboat Springs. That decision will affect when needed renovations at Strawberry Park can occur and whether to renovate, leave unchanged or sell the human services center.

Along with board member Pat Gleason, Miller-Freutel suggested forming a steering committee of community members to look at facility planning issues.

Superintendent Donna Howell said the time for such a committee may have passed.

"I think if you want to have a steering committee, that should have happened months ago," Howell said. "I really think what we need to do is have (the community) respond to a plan."

District officials hosted several community forums to discuss facility planning last fall, using input derived from a $90,000 analysis of district facilities conducted in 2005 and paid for by the Education Fund Board.

On Monday night, the board asked district facilities director Rick Denney to create cost estimates of the three options for Soda Creek so the board can review those estimates at its April 3 meeting.

Howell said a facilities plan needs to be finalized by the end of the school year. For Soda Creek Principal Judy Harris, a plan can't come soon enough.

"I beseech you to work together on this. Soda Creek needs you to work together to meet the needs of the school," Harris said to the board. "I really hope I didn't need to fill this room tonight with frustrated, angry teachers in order to be heard."

The facilities analysis stated Soda Creek has numerous structural problems including support columns that obstruct vision in classrooms, inadequate cooling and ventilation, low ceilings, an inefficient and sprawling floor layout and overall small site size.

Also on Monday, the board decided it would not yet give approval to a $950,000 gift approved by the Fund Board last week for a new wing at Steamboat Springs Middle School. Miller-Freutel and board members John DeVincentis and Jeff Troeger questioned whether that addition is the best use for such a large amount of money, especially given other facility needs.

Troeger also said he felt "out of the loop" regarding the Fund Board's budget for next year, which the Fund Board adopted last week.

"I think this constitutes a valid reason for getting the Fund Board and (its) commissions together with the School Board," Howell said.

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