Alternative school goes regional

Steamboat Fund Board to help with teacher salaries

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Routt County's new Regional Alternative School is scheduled to open its doors in September, possibly with a boost from Steamboat Springs' Education Fund Board.

The countywide alternative school will host up to 12 students from Hayden, South Routt and Steamboat Springs. The Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES, will manage the school, which will be housed in the George P. Sauer Human Services Center near downtown Steamboat, said BOCES executive director Jane Toothaker.

BOCES will hire a full-time, lead teacher for the school along with a part-time teacher. Funding from all three Routt County school districts will support the school, but that funding may not be available for an immediate need.

At its meeting tonight, the city's Education Fund Board will hear a proposal to provide $4,800 to allow the full-time teacher, who may be hired this month to begin planning curriculum this summer, Toothaker said. The money would fund 20 days of planning time, at $240 per day, as a one-time allocation to help the school get started.

The Fund Board generates revenue from a citywide, voter-approved, half-cent sales tax and will allocate more than $3 million to needs at Steamboat schools next year. Involving the Fund Board in a countywide proposal is a novel idea, said Paul Sachs, who chairs the Fund Board's Educational Excellence Commission.

"It is relatively unusual," Sachs said. "But we have always talked about the desire to try and do things that would service the entire county."

Sachs said Donna Howell, superintendent of the Steamboat Springs School District, introduced the proposal for extra teacher funding at the commission's April 12 meeting.

"It wasn't on the agenda," Sachs said. "Donna (Howell) added it to the agenda that night."

Toothaker said Tuesday that the idea for a regional alternative school began at an October meeting of a steering committee comprised of educators and school administrators from across Routt County. The committee hired a facilitator to coordinate the planning process, which began with monthly meetings in January, Toothaker said.

Plans for the school have begun to solidify, she added.

"We're hoping this month to hire our teachers and let students know that this will be available in the fall of 2006," she said.

Alternative schools in Hayden and South Routt will close after this school year.

"I think each school was feeling like they didn't have a large enough student population to continue on their own," Toothaker said. "There were strengths with each program, and we're combining those resources to create this one school."

Bus transportation will be available to students traveling to Steamboat, which Toothaker said was chosen because of its central location and available space. The school also will include a second part-time teacher, hired by the Steamboat school district, to work with students who were suspended or expelled from a public high school and attend the alternative school on a temporary basis, Toothaker said.

Toothaker said she thinks the alternative school will be the first permanent program in Routt County that involves students from all three school districts.

The Human Services Center will be a temporary location for the school's first year. The fate of that building is uncertain and depends on Steamboat's long-term facilities plan, which is yet to be finalized.

Also tonight, the Fund Board will hear initial funding proposals to place artificial turf on Gardner Field at Steamboat Springs High School and to upgrade computers and software at the North Routt Community Charter School.

-- To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203

or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com

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