CC4E group still eyeing 2017 for school facilities ballot measure | SteamboatToday.com

CC4E group still eyeing 2017 for school facilities ballot measure

Students board a long line of busses at Steamboat Springs Middle School in 2013.

— A year after the Steamboat Springs School District designated community members to develop a plan for the district's future, the group is making slow but steady progress.

The Community Committee for Education, or CC4E, held its first meeting in February 2016, and nearly 13 months later, the group has proposed a series of diverse options for future district facilities improvements, commissioned a new district demographics report and shared community feedback regarding district policies.

While board of education members learned last week that the committee is unlikely to turn its facilities recommendations over to the board this month, committee members said this week the goal remains for the district to put something on the ballot this year.

"CC4E intends to work collaboratively with the board of education and district administration to meet the appropriate deadlines to have something ready for the November 2017 election," said Jeanne Mackowski, a CC4E member.

The board has not given the committee a deadline to turn over its recommendations for district facilities — the most anticipated work of the committee — but board members have expressed concern about whether the process is moving quickly enough.

"We only have so much time to put something on the ballot, if that's what the board decides to do," said Joey Andrew, board chair. "I really want to see options come before the board."

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CC4E Chair Bette Vandahl said Monday that, while the facilities subcommittee has gathered some feedback on a handful of options the group is studying, there's still more work to be done.

"We've had well-attended presentations with the union and numerous presentations with administrators, and now,, we need to balance that with the community," Vandahl said.

In November, the public got its first look at a series of options the committee is considering.

Each of the six "pathways," or options, involves expanding, but not relocating, Steamboat Springs High School, and four of the pathways involve adding a new elementary school, either by building at the district's Whistler Road site or purchasing Heritage Christian School.

Among the more creative options is to meld the Strawberry Park Elementary School and Steamboat Springs Middle School buildings into one middle school campus, with fifth and sixth grades at the current elementary school and seventh and eighth grades at the current middle school, while a third elementary would be built, and district elementary schools would become preschool through fourth-grade campuses.

Another plan suggests reconfiguring the middle school into a seventh- and eighth-grade campus and moving sixth grade into district elementary schools. This plan would also involve building a third elementary.

District principals in January expressed concern about the impacts to student achievement if grade levels were reconfigured, but for now, committee members are leaving all pathways on the table.

Committee members have begun conducting focus groups within the community and plan to hold a public community forum from noon to 2 p.m. March 23 in the Citizens' Meeting Room at Centennial Hall, 124 10th St.

During its meeting Tuesday, the group plans to set more concrete goals for its work through the next two months.

Andrew said Monday he'd like to see options presented to the board by April, if not this month, but said he also doesn't want to rush the work of the committee.

"I'm sensitive to the fact that the board is trying to rush CC4E — that's not the case," Andrew said.

Board member Margie Huron, who has attended many of the CC4E meetings, said she, too, has concerns about the work that needs to take place if the board is expected to put something on the ballot this year.

Huron said she wasn't involved in the process during the district’s failed 2015 bond, but she imagines it will take some time to hire an architect and owner's representative, perform site evaluations and get estimates for construction.

"I would love to see the proposals presented to the board sooner rather than later," Huron said.

In order for something to be placed on the ballot for 2017, the district would need to reserve its place on the Routt County ballot on July 28, 100 days prior to the election, and submit final ballot language 60 days prior, on Sept. 8.

CC4E will meet at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the district office board room, 325 Seventh St.

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

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