Demographer urges Steamboat School Board to build 3rd elementary school

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— The Steamboat Springs School District needs to build a third elementary school to accommodate increasing enrollment, a demographer said Monday.

Shannon Bingham, a school demographer with Western Demographics Inc., said during Monday's school board meeting that if the district followed desired student-teacher ratios for classrooms, elementary schools are already over capacity and Steamboat Springs Middle School soon will be over capacity, as well.

“You need to add another school or you're going to be dealing with problems,” Bingham said.

Based on Bingham's observations, which included studying district schools, interviewing local Realtors and business professionals and comparing data to other Colorado resort towns, district enrollment will continue to increase by 2 to 3 percent annually for the next five years.

By the 2018-19 school year, Bingham anticipated district enrollment would increase to about 2,700 or 2,800 students, up from about 2,460 this year.

“That's based upon a fairly clean annual growth rate of 2 percent or 3 percent,” Bingham said.

Bingham's study included trying to identify location-neutral business employees who increasingly are moving to the area, often with families.

He estimated there were 1,000 such people in the region but said he struggled to find people willing to participate in a survey that would reveal more demographic information about location-neutral employees and other demographic trends.

According to Bingham, district elementary schools would be as many as 400 students over capacity in the next five years, and Steamboat Springs Middle School would be about 50 students over capacity.

Enrollment is expected to increase at the high school level also, but that campus has the capacity to sustain itself throughout the next five years, Bingham said.

Board member Scott Bideau said he feared what it would mean if Bingham's predictions were too conservative and that location-neutral employees may be moving here at a faster rate than predicted.

“They're moving here very quickly,” Bideau said. “I'm personally convinced to build that school, and I want to get started on the planning.”

Bideau noted that according to Bingham's analysis, Soda Creek Elementary and Strawberry Park Elementary combined have been over capacity since Soda Creek was built in 2008.

“I'm a little concerned that we as a community have allowed this situation,” Bideau said. “I think we're at the point where we need to (build) it right now.”

Bingham said that while building onto the existing two elementary schools was possible, neither site was ideal for expansion.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow

Comments

Dan Hill 2 months ago

Un-#$@%-believable. We spent tens of millions of dollars knocking down and replacing an existing school because it wasn't fancy enough only to find what we actually needed was more capacity (assuming these forecasts of enrollment growth are more reliable than the previous forecasts of no enrollment growth that led us to waste money in this way in the first place).

Forgive me if I'm not ready to pay even higher taxes to fund this bottomless financial pit we call the school district. At every turn there are demands for more money which only seem to fund ever more palatial facilities and more administrators, but never seem to improve education outcomes. Enough already!

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Scott Wedel 2 months ago

Well, SB actually does have good educational outcomes. That is a big part of needing a new school because of the out of district students seeking a better education.

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Scott Wedel 2 months ago

Hmm, though with number of students living in Soroco's district who attend SSSD then maybe they should build it's new elementary school in Stagecoach.

Seriously, before building a new school, I think SSSD and Soroco need to figure out what they are going to do about Stagecoach. Stagecoach is the largest population center in Soroco where most commute to SB and seemingly every kid attends school in SB. Stagecoach also has a huge number of affordable buildable lots and is likely to grow faster than SB.

The situation of Soroco having declining enrollment while SB needs to build an additional school is crazy. Personally, I think a merger makes a lot of sense. The two districts already have a high level of cooperation. A merger would allow for an elementary school in Stagecoach. It would let Soroco HS be a magnet school better able to attract locals and some SB students for a year or two.

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Carrie Requist 1 month, 4 weeks ago

We knew this when Soda was rebuilt - that it would not add enough capacity, but ti was rebuilt anyway. For some reason, our district has staunchly refused to believe that the enrollment would grow. This goes all the way back to 2002 when they told the state school board that enrollment would decline even though it had been growing steadily at that 2-3% rate. With the administration not believing in the growth and telling the school board the same, then no wonder that growth is not planned for. Given how this rolls to the just about full MS and HS, seems that the best thing to do now would be to use the lot they have at Silver Spur to build a K-8.

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scott bideau 1 month, 3 weeks ago

I believe what was known versus just assumed depends on the source of information a person relied on. The actual enrollment numbers are a fact, and they coincide with previous projections.

The demographic study referenced is publicly available through the school district. I've also posted it to http://scottbideau.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/2014_demographic_study.pdf for the public's convenience.

I'm trying to get a copy of previous studies completed.

(Although I am a member of the Steamboat Springs School Board, these comments are my own personal opinions and do not represent those of the School Board's)

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