Middle school project passes

School Board OKs $1.25M addition

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The Steamboat Springs School Board approved a $1.25 million addition to Steamboat Springs Middle School at its meeting Thursday night.

Money for the nearly 4,000-square-foot addition is a gift from the city's Education Fund Board, which receives revenue from a voter-approved half-cent sales tax. The addition is designed to add office and classroom space, renovate the school's main entrance and improve drainage in front of the school.

Numerous times this winter, jackhammers had to be used to clear frost heaves that prevented school doors from opening.

The School Board approved the addition with a 4-1 vote. Board member John DeVincentis voted against the addition be--cause of a need to maintain small class sizes in district schools, he said.

"I am opposed to spending $950,000 this year when there are other needs that directly impact kids in the classroom," DeVincentis said.

The Fund Board gift is $950,000 in cash this year and a $300,000 loan that the Fund Board will pay for out of its budget next year. DeVincentis said that although he does not question the need for the addition, using loans throughout several years to fund its construction would allow the district to immediately pay for teachers who could reduce class sizes and provide staff for expanding academic programs in the district, such as instruction for gifted students and English language learners.

The state has mandated an increase in programming for gifted and talented students in every Colorado school district during the next two years, and the number of Steamboat students learning English as a second language is rising sharply.

Robin Crossan, president of the Fund Board, said those programs will need space and teachers.

"Show me where you're going to put five new teachers at Straw-berry Park Elementary or the middle school without adding more space," she said. "Are you going to put them in a closet? You have to support the infrastructure behind (the programs) to make them work."

Although the School Board and the Fund Board acknowledge facility needs at Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools -- Strawberry Park Principal Mark MacHale said more than 100 students at his school use modular classrooms -- the high cost of those needs likely will require a bond issue placed before voters.

Superintendent Donna How-ell said Thursday that voters likely would be more receptive to a bond issue that addresses only the two elementary schools.

"This gift allows us to finish the middle school and have two buildings in excellent condition," she said, referring to the middle school and Steamboat Springs High School.

Howell and Fund Board treasurer Tom Ptach said the Fund Board, which has pledged more than $1 million to pay for 20 teachers next year, also has set aside a $200,000 reserve that can be used to fund additional teachers next year.

"There are resources available (for teachers)," Howell said.

The next School Board meeting is Monday.

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