Strawberry Park plans revisited

District wants parent feedback on moving lunch to arcade

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Food specialists Vicki Vitek (foreground) and Mary Jane Price serve students at Strawberry Park Elementary School their choice of hamburgers or chicken patties Monday. There are concerns about moving lunchtime from the school's gym to the arcade.

— Concerns about moving lunchtime at Strawberry Park Elementary School from the gymnasium to the arcade has the Steamboat Springs School Board rethinking current construction plans.

Those plans call for new flooring in the arcade area to accommodate elementary children eating lunch in the open area at the center of the school. Then the gymnasium, which currently doubles as a cafeteria, could be freed up for physical education classes and indoor recess.

But during Monday's School Board meeting, board member John DeVincentis, former principal at Strawberry Park, questioned whether moving lunch into the arcade would solve anything.

"Moving the cafeteria sounds like it will take care of the problem, but it won't," DeVincentis said. "You will have indoor recess negatively impacting the gym. Assemblies use the gym. What you do is you are just moving the cafeteria but not fixing the problem."

Strawberry Park physical education teacher Sam Rush told the School Board that any extra time she could be given for class would be appreciated. She has been forced to delay starting P.E. until the gym has been thoroughly cleaned after lunch.

"There are days I wait 10 minutes until I can come in and use gym," Rush said.

DeVincentis suggested delaying construction on the arcade until the School Board finds an alternative that addresses all issues.

Architect Leland Reece, who participated in the discussion via conference call Monday, said the School Board has until Feb. 12 to make a final decision about whether to move forward with current plans to move the cafeteria and kitchen or delay construction of the project. The deadline was set because of construction timelines and cost.

The district has a finite budget of $29.7 million to build a new Soda Creek Elementary School and renovate Strawberry Park. Funding for the projects was approved by voters in November.

"I think you should make a decision if you are going to leave the arcade the way it's set up as a cafeteria, or if that's ultimately not what you want to do," Reece said. "If I was the district, I would save the money and spend it in a different way. I just hate for the district to expend the money on design and engineering if it's not what the district ultimately desires."

Reece had hoped the School Board would make a decision Monday, but board members want more feedback from parents and community members before finalizing plans.

Strawberry Park Principal Mark MacHale is holding a meeting with Strawberry Park parents and future Strawberry Park parents at 3 p.m. Wednesday at the school. He is setting up tables so parents can get a better feel for what the arcade would look like with students and lunch tables in it.

Any input will be used to help the School Board make a decision at its Feb. 12 meeting.

MacHale and perhaps a School Board member and a parent are planning a trip to the Front Range to visit a school with a similar setup to what is proposed for Strawberry Park.

The School Board suggested Reece move forward with the proposed plans to build an addition on the west side of the school as planned.

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