Consolidating 3 Routt County school districts to be explored | SteamboatToday.com

Consolidating 3 Routt County school districts to be explored

Education officials plan conversation as school districts face cuts

Jack Weinstein

— Local education officials agree that exploring the consolidation of the three Routt County school districts is a good idea, but they aren't sure how to do it.

Education Fund Board Vice President Mark Andersen said he thought the volunteer group that allocates the city of Steamboat Springs half-cent sales tax for education should discuss whether paying for a study to explore that would be an appropriate use of local education dollars.

"If it's going to help our local schools and if there's any way to facilitate that, yeah, I think it's going to be beneficial," he said, but added, "I think it's way too early to determine that. We don't know how the school districts feel about it."

Officials with the districts also have said it's about time to start discussing whether combining the Steamboat Springs, Hayden and South Routt school districts' more than 3,100 students should be considered.

South Routt Superintendent Scott Mader said he would add a consolidation discussion to the School Board's March 17 agenda. Mader said he didn't think Gov. John Hickenlooper's proposed $332 million net reduction to statewide K-12 education next year would lead to the immediate consolidation of the county's school districts.

"Not that things aren't bad, but some drastic cuts from the state would have to come for us to think seriously in that direction in the near future," he said.

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Hayden Superintendent Mike Luppes said a discussion among the district's school board members would be appropriate in the future but not now.

"It's something worth exploring, let me put it that way," he said. "I think it depends how it's done."

Andersen said he would ask Fund Board President Kristi Brown to put a discussion about paying for a consolidation study on the nonprofit group's March 23 meeting agenda.

Brown said a discussion is worth having. She said whether the Fund Board paid for a study would be determined later.

"I think if it's something the community would like to see done, it's an appropriate use of Fund Board dollars," she said. "In order to continue to provide education to our students in Routt County to the level that we've provided in the past, meaning superior results, we are going to have to pursue some avenues for cost savings. This is a viable one. I think a study is the first step."

— To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or e-mail jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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