Steamboat School Board hears how technology is being used in classes

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— Principals in Steamboat Springs told their school board Monday night the many new tech tools unwrapped and fired up in their schools this year as a result of grant funding were helping their students meet academic goals.

All of Steamboat’s principals addressed the board for an hour on what their schools were doing to help students master 21st century skills such as global awareness, organization skills and critical thinking.

And all of them said technology was a major piece of the puzzle.

Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools principals Michele Miller and Celia Dunham discussed how students and teachers were using new Smart Boards and iPads in their classrooms this year to increase student participation. Miller said interactive maps on Smart Boards, for instance, were proving to be more engaging to students during world geography lessons than paper maps or an atlas.

Dunham said a number of parents are requesting that their students be placed in one of the seven classrooms at Strawberry Park equipped with a Smart Board because their students are visual learners.

And Steamboat Springs High School Principal Kevin Taulman said his school is pushing for all teachers to increase their web presence with class websites to allow students to access course material and supporting documents online.

The discussion was part of a monitoring report the School Board uses to measure how their schools are helping students meet certain requirements the board feels are necessary before they graduate.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Superintendent Brad Meeks updated the board on the district’s enrollment figures, which show another year of significant growth for the district. He said that to his surprise, the Oct. 1 headcount stayed true to the district’s projection of growth at the start of the school year.

The district is expected to report to the state an enrollment for funding purposes of 2,284 students, compared to 2,246 students at the same time last year. The district had 2,196 students in the 2009-10 school year.

District Financial Director Dale Mellor said he is anticipating the district will have 56 more full-time students than it did last year, which he estimates will generate about $362,000 in additional revenue. Each full-time student in student brings the district $6,400.

In recent years, Mellor said the additional revenue has gone toward increasing teacher salaries and benefits, but he said that because the district anticipates $1 million in additional cuts next school year, it’s possible the money could be put somewhere else.

“We’re going to talk about that,” he said. “With the economic climate the way it is right now, there may be some other things this extra money could be going toward.”

The district’s program budget last year decreased by $1.5 million.

Mellor said the School Board will begin to discuss where to allocate the extra revenue as soon as its next meeting.

Meeks also used the enrollment data, which showed significant growth at the middle and elementary schools, to predict that in three years, Steamboat Springs High School could have more than 700 students. The school has 622 enrolled students this year. He said in seven years, the middle school could have 100 more students than it does this year.

Board members also heard an update on several renovation projects completed this summer that included a $163,000 sidewalk improvement project at Strawberry Park Elementary School. District Transportation Director Pascal Ginesta presented a preliminary five-year building project plan that included projects ranging from the installation of fiber optic cables between the district’s schools to enlarging the district’s cafeteria prep area or adding a central kitchen.

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