Steamboat Springs The Steamboat Springs School District informed the Education Fund Board at a meeting Wednesday night that it has dropped its request for $240,630 that would have made the district’s full-day kindergarten program free to parents next school year.
Steamboat’s tuition-based kindergarten program charges parents $2,349 annually for full-day students and has 139 children enrolled at Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools.
Steamboat Superintendent Brad Meeks said he decided to drop the grant request because of concerns the Steamboat Springs School Board raised about the proposal at its meeting earlier this month.
“We knew we would have to find ways to reduce (the overall cost) of our grant proposals to the Fund Board, and with the School Board having questions about the (kindergarten funding) request, it seemed likely it would be the first one taken away,” Meeks said.
At a Feb. 6 School Board meeting, member Wayne Lemley said he wouldn’t vote to accept the funding if it came at the expense of dollars to support smaller class sizes in Steamboat. Board member Robin Crossan added that it would be difficult to accept the grant without a guarantee the Fund Board would continue to support the program in the future.
The school district originally applied for $3 million in grant requests from the Fund Board, but the revised total they presented Wednesday night came in at $2.7 million.
Still, the grant commission asked the school district during the five-hour-long Wednesday meeting to significantly pare down its “effective classroom” grant request, by far its largest at $2.6 million.
As requested, the grant would support about 42 full-time district employees, who would work in programs ranging from special education to Title 1 reading.
“We don’t like these funding numbers because they are not realistic,” grant commission Chairman Stuart Handloff said, adding that the grant request was hundreds of thousands of dollars more than what the Fund Board projects it will have available in its budget for next school year.
According to the Fund Board’s latest financial report, it projects it will award about $2.5 million from Steamboat’s half-cent sales tax to Routt County school districts and community groups next school year. However, grants that were approved out of cycle bring that pot down to about $2.1 million.
The Steamboat school district last year received $2 million from the Fund Board, according to district Finance Director Dale Mellor.
“We 100 percent support the objectives of the school district and what they’re trying to accomplish, and we look forward to helping them accomplish that with funding in this cycle,” grant commission Co-chairman Glenn Airoldi said. “We simply want to ensure it’s done in a way the Fund Board can be accountable to the community for the way the dollars are being spent.”
With the exception of Steamboat’s “educator effectiveness” grant, the grant commission moved forward all of the applications it considered Wednesday night to a first reading with the Fund Board on March 7.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com