$3.7M wish list pitched to Steamboat’s Education Fund Board | SteamboatToday.com

$3.7M wish list pitched to Steamboat’s Education Fund Board

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View submitted grant applications and learn more about the Fund Board at http://www.steamboateducationfund.org.

— Officials from the Hayden, South Routt and Steamboat Springs school districts and leaders of education-oriented community groups such as Yampatika and Partners in Routt County filled a conference room in the George P. Sauer Human Services Center on Wednesday night to pitch $3.7 million worth of grant requests to the Steamboat Springs Education Fund Board.

The pitches for dollars that would support staff, programs and tech tools allowed Fund Board members to gauge the funding priorities of the three school districts that have seen budget cuts in recent years. The board also took note of what items the school districts did not ask for.

Specifically, the Steamboat Springs School District's decision to not apply for funding for its elementary school Spanish language program, which was supported by a Fund Board grant this school year, concerned some Fund Board members.

"There is a lot of community support for the elementary school Spanish program, and I think parents will be disappointed if it goes away," Fund Board President Kristi Brown said after the school districts presented grant requests.

Her concern was echoed by other board members.

Steamboat Superintendent Brad Meeks told the Fund Board that the school accountability committees at Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools are considering eliminating next school year the Spanish language program, which is offered to third- through fifth-grade students, to dedicate more class time to literacy.

Meeks said the program's fate could be decided as early as next month during budget discussions. The school district requested $118,000 to support its Spanish language program at the middle school.

Tech heavy

The Steamboat Springs School District requested a little more than $3 million from the Fund Board for next school year to support smaller class sizes and school programs that include Title I reading and special education. Requests also covered professional development for district staff, among other things.

While Steamboat scaled back its funding requests for technology hardware and software, the requests made by the Hayden and South Routt school districts were dominated by a desire for tech support that included Smartboards and better broadband capability. Technology-oriented requests made up 97 percent of the $254,500 in grant requests South Routt submitted to the Fund Board and 70 percent of the $178,779 Hayden requested.

South Routt is asking the Fund Board for $95,000 to install radios on towers at Emerald Mountain and in Oak Creek and Yampa that would increase the broadband speed between its secondary school campus and its elementary school. The project also would allow South Routt to tap into Steamboat's data network and permit the two school districts to share more applications and technology resources over a unified network, according to Steamboat Technology Director Tim Miles.

Hayden requested $47,000 to fund a similar project that would create a wireless connection between its high school and elementary school.

The Fund Board is projecting it will dole out $2.5 million in grants next school year, a slight increase from this school year but well below the $2.9 million it was able to award in the 2009-10 school year from Steamboat's half-cent sales tax.

"There are lots of needs in all of these districts," Brown said after the presentations. "Unfortunately, a lot of cutting (from the grant applications) is going to happen over the next few months. Everyone is going to have to find ways to do what they need to do with less funding."

Other notable funding requests include:

■ $240,630 by the Steamboat Springs School District to fund a full-day kindergarten program.

■ $25,000 by the Hayden School District for upgrades and renovations to its auditorium. The Fund Board previously has denied funding requests for the upgrades.

■ $30,000 by Yampatika for its environmental literacy program.

■ $37,500 by Partners in Routt County for its school-based mentors program, which pairs middle school students with AmeriCorps volunteers. Partners is hoping to expand the program to elementary school students next year.

■ $35,000 by North Routt Community Charter School to implement an expeditionary learning program.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com