Sherri Sweers: Embrace change

Sherri Sweers: Embrace change

As a school board member, I thought it important we conduct thorough research and explore every option in addressing the issues of needed school repairs and overcrowding.

After conducting research, educators and experts concluded Steamboat schools need repairs and renovations and a long-term plan to address capacity demands. In reality, we needed an elementary school five years ago. Now, we need a new elementary school and a new and/or larger middle school.

I was surprised to learn that a demographic study from 2006 indicated the elementary schools were already, or would soon be over-capacity, yet Soda Creek Elementary was replaced for $29 million without adequately addressing the issue of growth.

We grew as expected and not only need multiple new facilities now but must perform $14 million in capital renewal on our current schools. I saw the school board’s decision as an opportunity to plan long-term rather than piece-meal solutions at a greater overall cost. A new high school meant one new building, yet new and improved facilities for each of our other schools.

Many options were considered. A kindergarten through eighth grade school was not supported by the academic community. Heritage Christian School was too small and would not address growth and space at the middle school. Expanding the current high school didn’t address the elementary or middle school needs without additional cost. One elementary school at Whistler wouldn’t address the obvious long-term growth, an avenue I was not willing to take after the 2006 vote.

There were very logical reasons for every decision made in the past year. The timing for the bond was chosen for numerous reasons. Our need is urgent, interest rates are low but rising and the 2016 ballot will be filled with other school bonds, thus driving up construction inflation.

More importantly, the YVEA Overlook property won’t last past November. If the bond is unsuccessful, the real estate contract expires. I, too, love the location of our schools, but I slowly grew to like the idea of a beautiful new high school that would enhance this area of our growing community.

As a board member and parent, I must admit I am disappointed by the lack of forward thinking and by the priorities of some critics. Educational facilities that meet student needs are more important than politics, tradition and even school location.

No child in this country, let alone Steamboat, should spend eight hours of school learning in half of a modular trailer home. Why would we wait until this condition exists at the high school before we change?

In terms of cost, I, too, had to think long and hard about asking citizens to spend this type of money. However, I realized residents will pay $302 more per year on a home valued at $500,000; this is less than $1 more per day, and your total school property taxes will be less than what you paid after the Soda Creek bond (inflation adjusted).

Moreover, one bond passed now, will be far cheaper than multiple bond elections down the road. I am also convinced any alternate plan will require similar types of tax increases for the community.

I think if you look at the facts, the research, take a tour of our schools, visit the Outlook property and ask questions and learn, you will also be persuaded that this is the best plan. Embrace this change; support 3A and 3B.

Sherri Sweers
Steamboat Springs School Board member and parent

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