Our view: CC4E’s recommendation to Steamboat school board makes sense | SteamboatToday.com

Our view: CC4E’s recommendation to Steamboat school board makes sense







After more than a year of studying the needs of the Steamboat Springs School District in the wake of a failed bond issue, the Community Committee for Education — CC4E — presented its formal recommendations to the school board last week.

Our view:

The option selected by the volunteer group makes sense and provides the school board with a good starting point as it plans for the district's future.

The volunteer group has asked the school district to consider pursuing a $31 million bond to cover millions of dollars in deferred maintenance on existing school buildings, plus several new construction items that include adding onto to the Steamboat Springs High School, building a gym for Strawberry Park Elementary School and updating the high school's turf and track.

The recommendation made by CC4E came as a bit of a surprise to us. We had expected the group to advocate for building a new elementary school at the district-owned Whistler site and suggesting a reconfiguration of grade levels at the Strawberry Park campus, but in light of a number of mitigating factors that have surfaced in recent months, we think the group's recommendation makes good sense.

Rather than pushing ahead with a larger, more expensive bond issue proposal to build a third elementary school, CC4E's approach is more conservative and, we think, will be more palatable to the voting public. The recommendation to shore up and improve existing facilities will take care of the district's most pressing needs and buy the district more time to continue to study its long-term options.

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Several key factors seemed to have influenced the group's final recommendation. A new demographics report indicated a drop in the county's birth rate between 2012 and 2014, which means fewer elementary school students in the coming years and an easing of the pressure on capacity at the district's two elementary school.

Additionally, the new Mountain Village Montessori Charter School had a strong first year and is expected to reach an enrollment of 140 during the 2017-18 school year, which has many looking to the new school as the district's third elementary.

The idea of building a school at the Whistler site also met with mixed reactions when CC4E met with residents there. A group opposing the plan had already formed, and some of those living in the neighborhood attended the school board meeting last week to voice their concerns.

There are also some unknowns looming out there that could change the district's future growth, including a proposed development in West Steamboat that has the potential to add hundreds of housing units in the coming years. The developers' plans even call for allocated space for an elementary school if demand called for it.

As we stated in an April 19 editorial, members of CC4E conducted a tremendous amount of research and did a stellar job of reaching out to the community for input prior to solidifying options we believe can help guide the district's plans for growth in the years to come. We respect the group's final conclusions, and we now encourage the school board to take the baton and continue working with CC4E and other community groups to come up with a bond issue plan voters can support.

The board took the first step toward that goal during a Monday evening work session, when it met with CC4E members to talk through some of the group's recommendations. This is the kind of collaboration we like to see, and, as Superintendent Brad Meeks said at the conclusion of Monday's meeting, there is more work to be done. But we remain optimistic that positive progress can be made if all the parties involved continue to work together and keep students' education top of mind as they chart the district's future course.

At issue:

CC4E made its recommendation to the Steamboat Springs School Board last week.

Our view:

The option selected by the volunteer group makes sense and provides the school board with a good starting point as it plans for the district’s future.

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