From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 4, Number 31 - October 28, 2004
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

No. 9 argues against K-8

by Cat Urbigkit

As this issue of the Examiner was going to press on Wednesday afternoon, Sublette County School District No. 9 officials were making their case before the Wyoming School Facilities Commission in Lander.

No. 9 officials oppose the five-year plan recommended to the commission by the commission’s staff. That plan, based on a one-day review of the district, calls for construction of a new elementary school in LaBarge, which the district supports. The problem with the plan is that it also proposes to tear down the elementary school in Big Piney and add a new wing onto the middle school, making that building a K-8 facility. The Big Piney measures are vigorously opposed by the district.

After spending several meetings discussing the matter, the district decided to officially oppose the recommendation, asking the commission to drop any plans for the Big Piney schools from the five-year plan. The delay, if approved by the commission, will allow the district some extra time to learn what impact growth associated with natural gas development will have on the schools. It also gives the district time to convince the state of the error in the recommendation.

No. 9 Superintendent Weldon Shelley outlined the planned argument to be made to the commission. With increased natural gas development in the county_ and several federal planning documents in the works that will decide the amount of development allowed, it makes sense to put off any plans for the Big Piney schools until more information is known. The drilling activities will increase school enrollments in the next five to 10 years.

By waiting a year or two and gaining more information, the trustees believe that a new facility could be designed and constructed that would more accurately address the district’s future educational needs, Shelley said.

Building amid a growth period may result in a new building that is too small to house all students and could be a waste of state funding, Shelley said. In addition, local parents are very concerned about housing elementary students and eighth-grade students in one facility.

Although the district does support construction of a new school in LaBarge, that process will have some problems as well. Growth in the community is expected to result in increased enrollment, but the district does not believe postponing construction of a new building should be postponed due to the condition of the existing building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. One of the details that will need to be worked out is whether construction of a new school can occur while students continue to use the existing building, or whether students will need to be bussed to Big Piney for a year. Shelley said the district would prefer to find another alternative other than bussing the students.

The board expressed it unanimous support for continuing to have a school in LaBarge.

Shelley said while state officials are concerned about reducing the square footage of the district’s facilities, the result could cause problems in delivering education to the students.

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