Parking mess clearing up

School Board considers staff for gifted, talented program

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— A little warm weather can solve a lot of problems.

A chaotic student pick-up and parking situation in the lot between Strawberry Park Elementary School and Steamboat Springs Middle School has become more orderly thanks to staff action and recent sunshine, which has melted snow and made driving lines visible.

Steamboat Springs School Board members discussed the parking lot situation at the beginning of their meeting Monday, which also included debate about a proposed gift from the Education Fund Board that would provide salaries for two teachers to support district programs for gifted students.

Mark MacHale, principal of Strawberry Park Elementary School, said sunshine has worked wonders for the parking conditions.

"Magically, it's gotten better," MacHale said. "People can see the lines now."

MacHale said increased signs, cones and presence from school staff and Routt County Sheriff's Office deputies -- who will begin issuing tickets for "blatant" parking offenses at the lot next week -- also have helped alleviate problems in the lot that has been snow-packed and icy for much of the winter.

The Fund Board discussion was more contentious.

On March 1, the Fund Board approved a spending budget of $3.3 million for the next fiscal year. Part of that budget is $100,000 for two full-time teachers who would develop curriculum for district students identified as "gifted and talented" and "high-ability learners."

If the School Board approves their salaries, those teachers would split their time among the district's four schools, an idea questioned by board member John DeVincentis.

"I am a huge proponent of gifted-and-talented programs," DeVincentis said. "But it concerns me that we would be trying to meet the needs of those kids with a half-time person in each building. Nothing much happens with a half-time person."

Ann Sims, director of curriculum and instruction for the district, said the teachers are needed to meet state requirements, which state not only that a process for identifying gifted students must be in place at the beginning of the next school year but also that curriculum for those students must be in place for the 2007-08 school year.

At its next meeting, the School Board will hear a presentation from the district's Gifted and Talented Committee outlining programming needs and progress, Sims said.

Judy Harris, principal of Soda Creek Elementary School, said that ideally, the teachers hired as gifted-and-talented instructors would provide insight and new ideas regarding curriculum development.

"I would really ask the board to stay open to this and to realizing that we don't have all the answers," Harris said.

The next School Board meeting is Monday.

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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