From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 104, Number 47 - November 22, 2007
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New high school debated at meeting

by Jennie Oemig

At the Sublette County School District (SCSD) #1 Long-Range Facilities Planning Committee (LRFPC) meeting on Monday, the discussion revolved around the proposed elementary school and whether or not that is the right direction to go with a new academic facility.

During a work session earlier on Monday, a list of pros and cons was created, pitting the construction of a new elementary school against that of a new high school.

Superintendent Doris Woodbury proceeded to go over the list with everyone in attendance, pointing out the main concerns. Among the pros for a new high school was the concept of keeping all of the kids in kindergarten through eighth grade on one campus, as opposed to moving the elementary school to a new site and creating another transition for students.

Traffic was also taken into consideration.

“We would pull traffic and young drivers away from the elementary school,” Woodbury noted.

Having a high school on another site would also limit the amount of high school boys dating middle school girls. “We like to discourage that,” Woodbury said.

On the con side, a high school would be more expensive and take more time to be built and is not in the district’s five-year plan of projected construction or additions, which the elementary school is.

“The SFC [School Facilities Commission] has not approved this project, nor is it in their budget for funding,” Woodbury noted.

The proposal of a high school on a different site would mean the district would have to transport students to the current site for physical education classes at the new Pinedale Aquatic Center.

It would also impact athletics since the SFC would not fund bleachers.

“We’d need to have competition at this site,” Woodbury said.

In addition, Woodbury said she does not know how the SFC would react to this project. With land for an elementary school already secured on the district’s transportation property, Woodbury said a new site would have to be purchased in order to provide enough space for the construction of a high school, which is typically twice the size of an elementary school.

For now, no decision has been made about which facility to construct, but Woodbury said she will be proposing the idea of a new high school to the SFC to find out if it’s feasible to make the change.

“We will see if it’s even a possibility to make this change at this time,” she said. Parent Craig Ritschel asked that, when making its decision, the committee should take into consideration which of the options would meet most of the district’s needs indefinitely. SCSD #1 Board of Trustees Vice President Ward Wise pointed out that the numbers do not support the construction of a new high school.

“We want to make sure that we’re as efficient as possible with our land and buildings,” he said.

The committee than discussed the luck the district had with the new fifth-grade pod in the middle school alleviating the overcrowding of the elementary school.

“Without the pod, we’d be in trouble,” committee member Jim Malkowski pointed out.

Concerned parent Dari Quirk then questioned the committee about where those kids are going next, pointing out that they will eventually end up in the high school and the district should prepare for that.

Business and Finance Director Vern McAdams said, though it would be logical to assume the construction of a high school would be necessary, the overcrowding problem has always been in the elementary school.

“The problem was in the fifth grade,” he said of the need to move that class to the middle school. “The need has never been in the middle school to date. We have more kids in the elementary school now than last year before we took the fifth grade out.” Wise again pointed out that the data shows a pattern that would support a new elementary school.

“On down the road you may, in fact, need a high school,” he said. “Right now, I can’t envision … taking that leap.”

Quirk also asked the committee if they had thought about just having grades 10 through 12 in a high school facility with the possibility of adding a ninth grade wing sometime in the future.

Woodbury said due to teacher certification, that would not be a logical approach and taking the ninth grade out of the high school would not even be considered. And the student population would be the key in getting a worthwhile facility, Woodbury added.

“We’d want the largest population possible in order to qualify for other things,” she explained. “We want to build a building worth having.”

Before the committee goes ahead with any decision-making, Woodbury said she will be speaking with the SFC on Nov. 26 to get its input.

At the next LRFPC, which will be held in the boardroom of the administration building at 6 p.m. on Dec. 10, Woodbury said she will report back with the SFC’s thoughts on the idea of the district constructing a new high school instead of an elementary school.

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