Roaring Fork Schools board approves student health curriculum, Meadowood housing maximum price contract set

LGBTQ+ and PFLAG member Ashley Stahl speaks during public comment at the May 24 board meeting.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

The Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education voted to approve the long-discussed student health curriculum on Wednesday, ending months of speculation as to whether the proposal would be passed.

The curriculum, which is intended to provide students the opportunity to expand their physical and personal wellness, social and emotional wellness and prevention and risk management. It also includes language supporting the needs and inclusivity of gender-expansive and LGBTQ+ students in the district.

According to district officials, with the approval of the curriculum, the district will now have the ability to offer students the opportunity to:

  • Ask any questions they have about issues such as puberty, sex, reproduction and relationships.
  • Receive complete, age-appropriate and medically-accurate information about sexuality.
  • Explore issues that interest them related to their sexual development.
  • Develop the skills necessary to form healthy friendships and, later, healthy romantic partnerships.
  • Have support from caring adults who respect, affirm and celebrate them for who they are.

Drawing a large crowd to Wednesday night’s regularly-scheduled board meeting in Carbondale, including a strong presence from the Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) organization, many Roaring Fork community members shared their mixed opinions regarding the health curriculum.

“Some of you in this room have the privilege of thinking that this is a simple curriculum change, but for others of us sitting here we cannot help realize the position you take might be the difference between life and death for children in this valley,” PFLAG member Ashley Stahl said, referencing that sexual education plays a large part in the mental health of those in the LGBTQ+ community.

While the PFLAG organization carried a strong presence throughout the night, the board also heard from a number of critics — including Cornerstone Church Pastor Jim Tarr who furiously stormed out of the room yelling remarks at board members — who showed up to air their opposition to the proposal.

Some opposed to the curriculum said they planned to move their children to a home school program, if the curriculum was approved.

“This could end up accounting for at least 100 children leaving the school system,” Elizabeth Taylor said. “All of this could be averted if Student and Family Services and the board would listen to the stakeholders and seize pushing an agenda that sexualizes our children.”

While opposition to the curriculum has made its presence felt throughout multiple discussions regarding the proposal, school board Director Maureen Stepp said that there is a strong split regarding the new health curriculum.

“I think a misrepresentation is that the majority are opposed to this proposal when from what I’ve heard, it’s more evenly split,” Stepp said.

With the board’s approval Wednesday night, Student and Family Services will now dive deeper into the proposed scope and sequence that will detail the learning topics held within the curriculum for each age range.

During a May 9 discussion of the proposal, Chief of Student and Family Services Anna Cole shared the district’s initial plan as to what students grades K-12 would be learning via the approved health curriculum:

  • Grades K-4: Personal safety; healthy relationships; basic anatomy/physiology.
  • Grades 5-6: Personal safety; identity/healthy relationships; anatomy/physiology; puberty
  • Grades 7-8: Personal safety/online safety; identity/healthy relationships
  • Grades 9-12: Personal safety; identity; puberty/adolescent development; pregnancy/reproduction; sexually transmitted diseases; healthy relationships; sexual orientation/behavior/identity

For those not comfortable with their children being involved in the approved health curriculum, an opt-out option will be available for all Roaring Fork families.

The proposed health curriculum will enter the district’s curriculum in a pilot year starting in the 2023-24 school year.

Also before the board

Also Wednesday, the board approved the guaranteed maximum price for the planned Meadowood staff housing project.

The project will add 50 units at the Meadowood project near Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale, in addition to the existing 124 units the district has available for teachers and staff, in an effort to attract and retain teachers for future years.

The board on Wednesday approved a “guaranteed maximum price” for the project of just over $24.6 million. That number is $930,096 higher than the previous design development estimate of $23.7 million presented in February, according to a staff memo from Chief Operating Officer Jeff Gatlin.

“This is in large part due to significant increases in plumbing and electrical and low voltage trades,” Gatlin stated in the memo. “Many of the trades are local contractors who have been vetted by (general contractor) FCI Construction and are qualified for this scope of work.”

The project is to be financed by a combination of available internal funds and external financing, Gatlin said, including about $12.2 million in general funds and an additional $17 million in Certificates of Participation proceeds. 

The total project cost is budgeted for just under $28.7 million.

Following the approval for the Meadowood housing project contract, the housing committee will now look deeper into the selection criteria for district teachers and staff who apply.

The next regularly-scheduled board meeting will take place at 6:15 p.m. June 26 at the Carbondale District Office.

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