SHERIDAN — The Wyoming Legislature approved state funding for three significant projects in Sheridan County School District 2 during this year’s budget session.
The projects entail a renovation of Sagebrush Elementary School; the design of a new John C. Schiffer Collaborative School building on the Sheridan College campus; and an update to the Sheridan High School science wing.
The Sagebrush renovations have the highest cost, at about $6.15 million. The Schiffer School design will cost about $1.29 million, while the science wing upgrades will total about $565,000.
All of the projects will go through a procurement process through the School Facilities Division that will take six to eight weeks. That includes a letter of intent, which identifies firms interested in working on the projects.
Next comes a request for proposals, where firms outline their work experiences and processes.
A local selection team will ultimately choose the firms with which SCSD2 will work.
The Sagebrush renovation and updated SHS science wing will move forward immediately, though SCSD2 facilities director Mathers Heuck said construction won’t begin until summer 2019 because this summer is too short of a turnaround.
The Sagebrush building is 33 years old and in need of many repairs, which were identified in 2014. The exterior wall and roof will be updated; the coal-fire boiler will be replaced by a smaller, more efficient gas-fire boiler; windows will be replaced and updated; finishes will be used for walls, ceilings and floors; and cracked, discolored tiles will be replaced.
“It kind of needs a facelift,” Heuck said, adding that the district considered building a new school but decided it was too costly.
Sagebrush will undergo the multi-year renovations in phases, with most of the work occuring in summer. The first step is talking with an architect and going over details to figure out what needs to get fixed and how to fix it.
“It’s going to be challenging because there are so many different components that need to be worked on and we’ve got to keep the school operating as usual,” Heuck said. “We’re going to have to get creative.”
The SHS science wing updates will include better technology accommodation and new pipes. It should be completed over the course of a summer.
“The way the space functions doesn’t really meet modern ways of teaching,” Heuck said. “It just kind of needs to get revamped.”
The Schiffer School project is effective July 1. The school currently serves SCSD2 students, but the eventual plan is for the new collaborative school building to include students from SCSD1, SCSD3 and Johnson County as well.
Heuck said Sen. Bruce Burns, R-Sheridan, was instrumental in securing the Schiffer School funding. Burns is co-chair of the Joint Appropriations Committee and helped pass the funding as a member of the conference committee.
“When the economy is not at its peak, it’s hard to justify a new building,” Heuck said. “I think the big difference between John C. Schiffer and other new buildings is that there is (currently) no alternative school.”
The Schiffer School currently rents space from Sheridan College after the old Highland Park building, which used to hold the district’s alternative school, was condemned last year.
“I wanted to make sure that my fellow legislators didn’t forget about it,” Burns said. “We can actually save the state some money by making a collaborative school instead of just an alternative school for one district.”
Rep. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, and Rep. Mark Kinner, R-Sheridan, were supportive during conversations with legislators and SCSD2 administrators as well.
“I think it’s critical for all of our students to have an approach to education that works for them,” Kinskey said. “I see nothing but upside. I think it’s relevant for the 21st century; it’s relevant for what Wyoming needs; it’s relevant for what America needs and I think it’s a good fit for the new generation as well as non-traditional workers that want to sharpen up their skills.”
“This helps those kids that maybe learn in more of a non-traditional way,” Kinner said. “Without this school, maybe those students might fall through the cracks.”
The design of the Schiffer School is the first step. School construction can’t begin until at least July 2020, if SCSD2 secures state funding to construct a new building.
Physical changes won’t be apparent for more than a year, but the wheels are in motion to create and update several SCSD2 facilities.