Third-party consultant required in BOCES withdrawal

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— Since submitting its application to withdraw from the Northwest Colorado Board of Cooperative Educational Services late last month, the Steamboat Springs School District has been asked by the Colorado Department of Education to send back more information on special education program plans and financial implications of the proposed withdrawal.

When the Steamboat School Board made the withdrawal announcement, the cooperative argued that the five other school districts – Hayden, South Routt, North Park, East Grand and West Grand – would suffer major financial setbacks without Steamboat School District's involvement in the regional organization.

The CDE responded to Steamboat School District’s application 10 days ago, requesting it conduct a third-party financial review.

In essence, the school district will now need to find a qualified financial consultant to sit down with the School Board and BOCES to hash out the final financial implications should the application be accepted by the state.

Following Monday’s School Board meeting, Steamboat Superintendent Brad Meeks said the district also needs to send back a letter to the CDE by Oct. 1, providing information on how much money the district is spending on special education students.

“We have to make sure we’re meeting federal and state guidelines,” Meeks said. “So, we have to continue to invest comparable levels into our special-ed program. We have to be able to show that we’re going to maintain that maintenance of effort.”

Meeks said the letter would be sent by Oct. 1, and the third-party meeting should happen shortly thereafter. He added that the district is having trouble lining up a financial consultant.

One person declined, and the district is waiting to hear back from a few others, according to Meeks.

Meeks said the CDE is also adapting to year-old rules changes. In order for a district to withdraw from programs like BOCES and become its own administrative unit, rules used to require a district to have either 4,000 students or 40 percent of enrollment identified as special education students.

The CDE scrapped the rule about a year ago, making it much easier for districts like Steamboat to serve as their own administrative units if they choose to be.

Moffat County School District made a similar move 12 years ago under the old rules, Meeks said, and is very comfortable with its decision.

Meeks said Steamboat School District is standing by its decision to apply for withdrawal from BOCES.

“We’re just at a point in our district with our growth, we just need more special education director time,” Meeks said. “We have good relationships with the other school districts, and we want those to continue. But, in this particular aspect of the operation, we just need to go in a little bit different direction.”

Once the Steamboat School District submits the required materials by Oct. 1, the CDE will reset its time clock and have another 60 days to respond to the final application.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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