SHERIDAN — New and existing projects are underway for Sheridan County School District 2, including partial completion of Sagebrush Elementary School and beginning work on the John C. Schiffer Collaborative School.
A fully-involved renovation of Sagebrush Elementary School began in June 2019, and half of the classes moved back into the main structure from modular buildings made available as classrooms during construction. SCSD2 Director of Facilities, Safety and Logistics Mathers Heuck updated SCSD2 Board of Directors Monday, noting classic kindergarten, first and second grades all moved into the newly renovated northeast section of the school a week before Christmas break.
While nearly all the building has and will be renovated to higher standards, updated furniture has not come with those renovations.
“I want to point out the furniture is about 35 years old and at the next meeting we’ll be talking about that a little bit,” Heuck said.
A parent drop-off loop will be paved in the spring, but the sidewalk concrete was poured to establish the area for parents picking up children in the future.
A vestibule was erected leading to the parent drop-off, which is nearly finished.
“That was just to accommodate the new configuration,” Heuck said.
The project’s initial cost totaled around $9 million, paid primarily by the state of Wyoming.
Another big-ticket project for SCSD2 is the Collaborative School, which is set to finally begin construction after short setbacks of high bids coming in for the project.
“I’m excited to say we get to build that school, it’s very exciting,” Heuck said. “We had six contractors submit (bids), approximately $385,000 over budget, but when these projects are planned, they’re planned for that and so there are funds built into what was legislated and we’re going to move forward.”
The base bid for the project started at $7,980,000. All six companies submitting bids started with a higher base bid and totaled well over the estimated price. Two Sheridan, one Buffalo, two Cody and one Billings, Montana, company all submitted bids. The final bid went to Groathouse Construction, Inc., out of Cody for a total bid of $8,096,885, which was the lowest of the six submitted.
Because of the bid rising $385,000 above the state’s budgeted amount, contingency funds from the School Facilities Division will cover that cost. The lot the new school will sit on resides on a corner plot south of Sheridan College on Dome Loop and Arena Drive.
Other projects, including the Goose Creek Stabilization Project, has stopped for the season.
The Sheridan High School’s science wing construction contractor is waiting for spring break to complete any major construction. Heuck said in his brief to the board the contractor will be onsite during evenings and weekends only to ensure work will not interrupt student learning.
Heuck mentioned several other projects he anticipates bringing forward to the board in future meetings, including master plans for the high school and junior high, as well as a roof replacement for Highland Park and camera installations in a few of the schools.
Achord takes reins of SCSD2 board
SHERIDAN — Craig Achord, who recently took over as chair of the Sheridan County School District 2 Board of Trustees, has big shoes to fill.
Past chair Ann Perkins, Achord said, is an “exceptional leader” who has served as president of the board for multiple years.
But Achord is no stranger to leadership, service or the school board. He has served on the board on and off since May 2015. In addition to his time on the school board, Achord volunteers for the Goose Valley Fire Department and works for Whitney Benefits as the staff accountant.
He serves for the same reason many others seek spots on the board.
“My motivation is easy, my two children’s education, like any parent,” Achord said. “I feel it is my duty as an elected representative of the people of Sheridan to continue with the high-level education all the children of the district experience.”
Throughout his time on the board, he’s appreciated the amount of time its members dedicate to service. Achord noted that the community is lucky to have exceptional teachers who share the same priority as the board and other school district staff — children’s learning.
SCSD2 Superintendent Craig Dougherty noted that even with the changing of roles within the board, the mission and dedication tends to remain the same.
The board faces challenges, though.
“I think our biggest challenge, which is a statewide challenge, is funding from the state and how that will filter down to the district level,” Achord said.
The latest forecast from Wyoming’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group suggests the state will pull in roughly $77 million less than previously predicted over the next biennium.
The projected revenue drop could be a particular challenge when it comes to education funding. The governor’s budget calls for the state to draw on reserves to fund education in the next biennium, but dwindling reserves would limit the long-term viability of that plan.
The challenge likely won’t be helped by increasing enrollment. Statewide, enrollment increased by 803 students this year compared to the last school year. In SCSD2, enrollment grew by just less than 50 students to 3,579.
As the new year moves forward, Dougherty said he’ll continue the habit of meeting with the board chair each week to discuss meeting agendas and work sessions.