Demographer urges Steamboat School Board to build 3rd elementary school | SteamboatToday.com

Demographer urges Steamboat School Board to build 3rd elementary school

— 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.

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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

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