SHERIDAN — Sheridan County School District 2 has planned to have an alternative high school building on the Sheridan College campus for at least five years. The plan is still a long way from fruition, but progress is slowly being made.
During its Feb. 5 meeting, the SCSD2 board of trustees approved the district to go ahead with plans to build a new John C. Schiffer Collaborative School on 3.61 acres of land currently owned by the Northern Wyoming Community College District in exchange for 4.55 acres of land that SCSD2 currently owns near Woodland Park Storage in the Burn Cleuch Minor Subdivision. The college hasn’t announced plans for the 4.55 acres.
The NWCCD board of trustees will receive more information at its meeting Feb. 15 about the exchange and approve or disapprove the agreement during its March 22 meeting.
If approved by the NWCCD board, the State Facilities Commission ultimately approves the exchange, which should be a mere formality.
“This one’s pretty easy because the (pieces of land) are pretty close together and we know exactly what they’re going to be used for,” SCSD2 facilities director Mathers Heuck said.
A bill proposal to start the design process for the new building will be heard by the Legislature this session. It proposes $1.289 million from the state to begin the design process and open up bids.
If passed, the bill is effective immediately. Heuck said the response so far has been largely positive and he doesn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t pass. He hopes to put out requests for proposals in March.
Upon design completion, SCSD2 will ask the state for money during its next budget session in 2020 to construct the building. If everything goes smoothly, ground will be broken in spring of 2020 and the building will open fall of 2021.
SCSD2 assistant superintendent Scott Stults said the building is necessary for a few reasons. The alternative school will be designed differently to better fit the learning needs of students. SCSD2 is also in the first year of a three-year lease with the college to rent classroom space for the Schiffer School’s current location. With college enrollment likely increasing in the future, SCSD2 needs to have its own building, Stults said.
The building design is only in the conceptual stage but will likely feature more open space and less walls so it can facilitate project-based learning better. The district will also look at alternative high school designs on the campuses of Western Wyoming Community College and Gillette Community College for ideas.
The building will be designed to have capacity for more students than currently attend JCSCS. It may also eventually be used as a collaborative high school for students from SCSD1, SCSD3 and Johnson County to attend.
“I think it’s going to be extremely creative in regards to how we design the walls so that we can create different spaces,” Stults said.
“It’ll be unlike any other school we have right now,” he said.
The 3.61 acres of land underwent studies to make sure it was a good spot for SCSD2 to build. A Most Cost-Effective Remedy (MCER) study was performed, where an architect looked at a variety of factors — including projected growth — and scored the proposal based on how well it met those factors, according to state criteria.
An environmental engineer performed a geological study on the 3.61 acres to make sure there weren’t any factors in the ground that would make it untenable for construction. The engineer looked at the types of soil on the land to make sure the foundation was stable and wouldn’t require additional costs to make the building more sturdy.
Both studies were successfully completed. The building will also need access and utility easements from the city in the future, but Heuck said working out those logistics should go smoothly.
The plan to have an alternative high school building still has a few years to go until completion, but it’s inching forward.