Steamboat Springs A long-awaited construction project at Steamboat Springs Middle School could break ground this summer after its funding took a big step forward Wednesday night.
The Education Fund Board approved an allocation of up to $1.46 million for the middle school project, which would move the school's administrative and reception offices to the front of the building, improve the school's security, install an awning over an upgraded front entrance and create more space for special programs such as counseling and mentoring. The approval was one of many by the Fund Board, which supported more than $3 million Wednesday in funding requests from its capital and educational excellence commissions.
The Steamboat Springs School Board will decide whether to accept the allocations as gifts from the Fund Board, which administers revenues from the city's half-cent sales tax for education. School Board president and Fund Board member Robin Crossan said the School Board could take action on the middle school allocation as soon as Monday night - an accelerated timetable that is necessary, she said, to allow Steamboat Springs School District officials time to receive bids for the project should it be approved.
Tim Bishop, principal at the middle school, said local builders have expressed interest in the project even in Steamboat's busy construction market.
"We could be breaking ground, again, as soon as school is let out," Bishop said Wednesday.
Bishop said moving forward with the renovation has been a process of about four years, including several delays and false starts. But he described Wednesday's Fund Board approval as "very positive" and said that, allowing for many "ifs" - if the School Board approves the funding and if a bid comes in under budget, for example - the project could be completed late this fall.
Dale Mellor, finance director for the school district, acknowledged completing such a project under budget is no sure thing.
"That's the 1.46-million-dollar question," he said.
The Fund Board also approved up to $80,000 for the school district's grant writer, a position that has brought Routt County schools more than $533,000 in grant funds annually since its inception in 1998-99, according to the Fund Board's capital commission. That commission also requested the middle school funding.
The Fund Board's educational excellence commission brought 10 requests to the Fund Board on Wednesday. All of them were approved and will be brought to the School Board for action in coming weeks.
Those requests include $800,000 for small class size, an allocation that would fund 16 full-time teachers; $155,000 for English as a second language programs; $215,000 for gifted and talented programs, which benefit more than 100 local students; $110,000 for articulated foreign language instruction; $75,000 for counselors; more than $62,000 for staff development; $25,000 for the Yampa Valley Science School, a growing program that is expected to host about 200 students this summer; $20,000 for youth orchestra; $1,800 for staff "Making a Difference" awards, and $50,000 for the school-based mentoring program run by Partners in Routt County.
Libby Foster, Partners' executive director, jumped in excitement after the Fund Board moved the AmeriCorps mentoring program closer to a huge funding boost.
"We're so thrilled that the Fund Board sees what a valuable program this is," Foster said of the school-based mentors, who provide tutoring and activities for local middle school students.
Jim Kurowski, chairman of the Fund Board's technology commission, said that commission will bring its requests to the Fund Board next month.
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