Modular classrooms likely on the way to Soda Creek Elementary | SteamboatToday.com

Modular classrooms likely on the way to Soda Creek Elementary

Ben Ingersoll

— Soda Creek Elementary School is overflowing with students — that much the Steamboat Springs School District knows.

What remains uncertain, however, is pinpointing the cause of the heavy influx of students, or deciding how exactly to meet the needs of an increasing enrollment during the 2014-15 school year and beyond.

At the district's second-to-last school board meeting of the 2013-14 year Monday, Superintendent Brad Meeks, Maintenance and Transportation Director Pascal Ginesta and both principals at Soda Creek and Strawberry Park elementary schools explored the space concerns and presented a few options to make sure students have enough room to learn in the future.

"We're going to need to do something, whether it's adding one modular or two modulars," Meeks said, noting he has had recent discussions with demographers to further evaluate enrollment numbers.

Three different options were explored Monday, but no decision by the board or the district has been made yet.

The first option looks at adding two modular units to the Soda Creek campus, which would facilitate four classrooms. Fifth grade's four sections would use the four temporary classrooms, with the 23 kindergarten through fourth-grade sections meeting in the existing campus building.

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Art, which is currently offered in the original teachers’ lounge, would relocate to its designated room. Spanish, which right now is offered on a cart and makes its rounds to Soda Creek classes, would get its own room, and an additional computer lab would be added — a high-demand item given the state's move toward online standardized testing.

The second option would add only one modular unit, creating two new classrooms dedicated to a pair of fifth-grade sections. There would be 25 kindergarten through fourth-grade sections in the existing building along with the remaining two fifth-grade sections. Spanish and art would remain as they are currently, and two computer labs would be made available.

The third option, which attracted little discussion Monday and seems an unlikely scenario, would include no modular additions.

This third option also proposes the idea of increasing class sizes from 28 to 30 for third through fifth grades and from 23 to 25 for kindergarten through second grades.

"We've had these space concerns for a while, but we use every nook and cranny," Soda Creek Principal Michele Miller said.

Ginesta, who said he favors a modular option that is one unit with four classroom spaces, said the temporary units cost about $118,000 apiece, not including the site work needed, such as sidewalks. The transportation and maintenance director said he's been busy shopping around for different units and weighing potential costs.

Money to fund the purchase or rental costs of the units would come from the district's capital reserves.

Enrollment has left the district scratching its head for more than a year. In the beginning, birth rate figures were closely examined to see if newborn trends were the reason for increasing student numbers. The spike in enrollment, however, doesn't align directly with birth rates.

Meeks said he met with the city last week to get information on building permits for the last 10 years. The recession severely slowed construction, he said, but even the nature of the information shows the probable need to add a new elementary school down the road.

When Soda Creek opened the doors to its existing building for the first time, enrollment was at less than 400 students. Today, more than 550 students fill the building.

The superintendent said before serious discussions about building a new elementary school begin, he wants harder data on his desk that addresses enrollment trends.

District recognizes educators of the year

For the first time ever, a Yampa Valley High School teacher was nominated and honored as a Steamboat Springs School District Educator of the Year.

Chuck Rosemond, the alternative school's social science and lead teacher, accepted the award at Monday night's school board meeting.

"I had a staff member for the Yampa Valley High School come to me earlier on and ask if we could nominate him," district curriculum director Marty Lamansky said. "I said absolutely. I think the fact that Chuck also became the Educator of the Year shows the value he has. We couldn't be more fortunate to have a better school leader than Chuck."

Lamansky said Rosemond's job is unique, operating in an alternative school environment where situations can change rapidly.

"He has clearly defined their mission, and they have made enormous strides in how they reach students in the district," Lamansky said.

The board also recognized Meghan Alexander, of Soda Creek Elementary; Carol Harris, of Strawberry Park Elementary; Kerry Kerrigan, of Steamboat Springs Middle School; and Larry Gravelle, of Steamboat Springs High School, as Educators of the Year.

To reach Ben Ingersoll, call 970-871-4204, email bingersoll@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @BenMIngersoll

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