Thursday, September 27, 2007
Wednesday's candidates forum was sponsored by First Impressions of Routt County.
Steamboat Springs Candidates for the Steamboat Springs School Board all pledged support for all-day kindergarten Wednesday, but differences emerged about when to implement such a program and how to fund it.
"As far as funding goes, we are hoping that parents that are interested in full-day kindergarten fund most of the costs," said School Board member Jerry Kozatch, who is running for re-election in District 5.
"They would be paying the school district a fraction, approximately 1/10 of what it would cost them to have some kind of daycare," he said. "I'm hoping that we can also enlist the Education Fund Board to make some contributions."
Kozatch was one of five School Board candidates who spoke at a lunchtime forum about early childhood education issues, hosted by First Impressions of Routt County. First Impressions provides resources and programs to foster healthy educational environments for young children.
"We are all telling you it's a great idea, it's good for the kids and it's good for the working families in Steamboat," said Laura Anderson, who is challenging Kozatch for the District 5 seat.
"The current board has given direction and a timeline that (they) want to go with it by fall" 2008, she said. "Some of us feel that there needs to be a more responsible approach to this : but I would like it to be a little bit more thoughtful to bring in more community input from those who will be affected, and I think curriculum concerns are very valid."
It is not mandatory to attend or provide kindergarten in Colorado. The Steamboat Springs School District offers half-day kindergarten classes that begin in the morning and afternoon. There are currently are 118 students in half-day kindergarten programs at Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools.
School Board member Char Rusk, who was appointed in June to fill the District 4 seat vacated when former board member Pat Gleason resigned, said parents should not count on all-day kindergarten next year because implementing the program is contingent on completing renovations to Strawberry Park.
"There's the possibility the state may begin to fund all-day kindergarten, and there are some other funding opportunities," she said. "From the parents I've talked to in the community, it seems that parents : would be willing to pick up the tab. There is also the challenge that many will need daycare after 3 p.m. when school gets out."
Rusk's opponent, Education Fund Board President Robin Crossan, suggested asking the community to pass a one-mill property tax increase to pay for the all-day program.
"The Education Fund Board has the ability to fund things, but it's very difficult to do so on a year-to-year basis," she said. "Jump-starting is a one-year thing, but the district needs to take over after the one year."
Lisa Brown, who is running unopposed for the District 2 seat, said the lack of space in Routt County after-school programs is a problem she would address as a member of the School Board.
"This is something nonprofits, government and private sectors can collaborate on and do something active using all our different resources," she said. "We have great after-school programs that are not available or cost effective to many who need it."
The School Board candidates joined nine City Council candidates at the forum. Other topics addressed included preschool programs, along with attracting and obtaining district staff as the price of living in Steamboat rises.