Steamboat Elementary School Challenge Fund nears 30 percent of goal |

Steamboat Elementary School Challenge Fund nears 30 percent of goal

Nik Keyek

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Learn more about the Steamboat Springs Elementary School Challenge Fund at

Nik Keyek, 8, types up short weather forecasts Tuesday afternoon in a computer lab at Soda Creek Elementary School. Organizers of the Steamboat Elementary School Challenge Fund are taking donations from parents and business owners that would be used to purchase additional technological tools for Steamboat's elementary schools.
Scott Franz

— Organizers of the new Steamboat Elementary School Challenge Fund are hoping the thousands of dollars they collect from parents and local businesses this school year will have a significant impact on Steamboat Springs School District's upcoming budget process.

Sam Jones, a founding member of the Challenge Fund, said Tuesday that the dollars the fundraising drive collects this school year will be important as the school district considers cutting school programs because of potential budget reductions.

"The fundraisers and bake sales we have done in previous years were great efforts, and everyone worked really hard to make them happen, but the schools need more money than we were earning from those," he said. "With this fund, every dollar that is donated goes directly to the schools."

To replace those bake sales and conventional fundraisers, a group of nine parents in December launched the Challenge Fund to collect private donations they say will further support Steamboat's two elementary schools. The fund, which is managed by the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, specifically aims to provide Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary school students with more opportunities to use new technology and have extra staff support as they learn rapidly developing 21st-century skills.

Among the items Jones said the Challenge Fund could support next school year are iPads, Smart Boards and a salary for an additional full-time technology teacher. The two elementary schools share one technology specialist.

"The fund is an answer to the budget reductions we're facing at the state level and the (Education Fund Board), and the parents are being creative on how to get some of that revenue back in the budget," Soda Creek Principal Michele Miller said. "It's exciting to see this take off."

Jones said that parents so far have donated $26,000 to the fund and that organizers are working to collect $100,000 before the end of the school year.

"I've been impressed by where we are so far," he said. "We've had gifts as small as $10 and as large as $5,000."

He said the fund also has succeeded in attracting the support of local businesses. Cugino's Pizzeria is offering 15 percent of its May proceeds to the fund, and Sweetwater Grill is offering to donate 10 percent of its net income from June 4 to 10 to the schools, according to the Challenge Fund's website. Other Challenge Fund sponsors include the Cornerstone Mortgage Co., The Steamboat Group, Wing-Time Buffalo Wing Sauce, Steamboat Pilates Yoga & Fitness, Elevation Dance Studio and Mindful Life.

Jones said all of the money donated to the Challenge Fund will be divided evenly between the two elementary schools. He said a nine-member committee of parents, teachers and the elementary schools' principals will form at each campus near the end of the school year to decide how to spend money from the fundraising campaign.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email