Photo by John F. Russell
Kate Sunderland, a media specialist at Soda Creek Elementary School, arranges boxes Monday afternoon inside the new school. Teachers and parents already have started making the move from Camp Soda Creek to the new facility just down the street.
Steamboat Springs As the seasons change and the air becomes crisp, Camp Soda Creek students and staff will migrate Monday to the new Soda Creek Elementary School, just blocks away from the temporary facility on Seventh Street.
The new school beckons young learners with fancy technology, bright spaces and the promise of playground area to spare. The move is the result of several years of hard work.
The Steamboat Springs School District, under the leadership of former Superintendent Donna Howell, began a concentrated effort to fund and build a new school in the fall of 2005, with a series of public meetings to gather community input and support. The district also commissioned a community survey to get more concrete feedback, which showed overwhelming support to keep the elementary school downtown. Countless hours of planning, review and campaigning followed. In November 2006, 60 percent of local voters approved Referendum 3D, a $29.5 million bond issue to pay for the new Soda Creek and other improvement projects.
After little more than a year in the Camp Soda Creek temporary classrooms, students and teachers are now on the verge of their first day in the new building.
"We have space!" said second-grade teacher Carol Fritz as she moved into her new classroom last week. "It's amazing how functional and gorgeous this building is all at once."
Fritz spent 23 years teaching in the old Soda Creek building before its demolition. She was also on the committee to urge voters to pass the bond issue to create the new school. Last week, she said she was in a state of disbelief.
"I can't believe that two years later we're in this building," she said. "We have space that more than meets the students' and teachers' needs."
Sue Lottes assisted her daughter's teacher, Lisa Hogue, with her move into the new classroom last week. Lottes said she was happy her daughter will be able to transition to the new building.
"She's never had a classroom, and she's never been in a real school before," Lottes said.
Lottes daughter, Shilo, was a kindergartener at Camp Soda Creek.
"It will take some adjustment, I'm sure," she said. "But I'm not worried; it's part of life."
Principal Judy Harris said she wants to make sure the adjustment is as smooth as possible for all students, and she is requesting that parents limit their time in the new building on the first day of school so that classes can begin quickly.
"We want to make school as normal as it can be," Harris said, requesting that parents not use the first day to talk to teachers or explore the school.
The school held a reception for the public in September and Harris said parents and students will be invited to an open house Oct. 23.
Students and teachers moved much of the school supplies to the new building during the past week. Many of the cubbyholes are filled with students' notebooks, and big-screen televisions are ready to hang in the classrooms. Sod is laid on the back lawn, but the new universal playgrounds will not be available for a couple of weeks, until a soft rubber mat can be poured under them.
Furniture also is in place, and a moving company will be transferring boxes this weekend in preparation for the first day.
"It's not something that will happen in a couple days," said Fritz. "But we, the students and teachers, are so fortunate because of the voters who approved the bond issue."
According to project manager Todd Ficken, construction of the new school remains $120,000 under budget.
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