Thursday, December 6, 2007
Steamboat Springs Steamboat Springs School District administrators Wednesday asked the city's Education Fund Board for $4.4 million in contributions next year, seeking money to support small class sizes, improved security and computer equipment, and completion of delayed construction at Steamboat Springs Middle School.
Sandra Smyser, the district's interim superintendent, emphasized the importance of Fund Board contributions - which will total $3.1 million for the 2007-08 school year - in allowing Steamboat schools to enjoy facilities and personnel of unusually high quality for a city of Steamboat's size. The Fund Board administers the city's half-cent sales tax for education.
"Because of the Fund Board, we have been able to soar above what the normal expectations would be," Smyser said. "The biggest item we would like to ask for you again - the bread and butter of what you are doing and the biggest item on the list other than a large capital item - is to keep class sizes as small as we possibly can."
According to data presented to the Fund Board by Dale Mellor, the district's director of finance, the half-cent sales tax funds 16 teachers in district schools to keep the average class size at 19 students.
Mellor said not funding those 16 teachers would swell that average to 22 students per class.
The Fund Board is divided into three commissions that address capital, technology and educational excellence needs.
The largest of the school district's educational excellence requests, which total $1.5 million, is for funds to support small class sizes. A $420,000 computer hardware upgrade is the largest technology request. The $1.7 million in capital requests are dominated by $1.5 million to complete improvements to the middle school.
Middle School Principal Tim Bishop told the Fund Board that the front entrance to his school is a "mess" and that student safety is at risk.
"The drainage is not draining, and the water is just sitting there," he said.
Bishop noted that in the winter, the standing water freezes, leading to a "hockey rink-like" entrance causing frost heaves that keep the schools' front doors from properly opening.
"It's a very unsafe entrance right now," Bishop said. "We are putting gravel on it every day. :
Safety at the middle school is also an issue that Fund Board money can fix, by moving administration offices closer to the front entrance to monitor who comes in and out of the building."
Other funding requests included a two-year, $125,000 gift to help match a federal school security grant that may include the installation of internal surveillance cameras in all district schools. The School Board accepted the $533,000 grant Monday but will discuss how to spend all the funds at a later date.
Requests that did not make the district's list included a field house for the Strawberry Park campus and funds for new playground equipment that include students with special needs at the district's two elementary schools.
"I just want to tell you, that even though (the playgrounds) are not listed on here, I'm not against moving forward with this project," said Smyser, citing money available in the Soda Creek Elementary School project for playgrounds and a community group's efforts in raising funds on their own.
She said the district may come to the Fund Board later to request additional funding and playground supporters previously said they would like to match whatever funds the district contributes.
Smyser said she is uncomfortable supporting the field house proposal until the district conducts a long-range facilities plan.
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