SHERIDAN — A significant funding proposal for a new school in Sheridan will go through another checkpoint this week.
On Friday, the Joint Appropriations Committee will consider a request for funding to construct a John C. Schiffer Collaborative School building on the campus of Sheridan College for an approximate cost of $8.394 million.
The Schiffer School — called Fort Mackenzie High School prior to 2017 — is an alternative high school for students in Sheridan County School District 2. Earlier this year, it had an inaugural graduating class of 16 students. The school district currently rents classroom space from Sheridan College but wants to construct a new building and has plans to open the Schiffer School to more high school students in the area.
If approved this week by the JAC, the funding proposal will be part of the 2019-20 biennium supplemental budget request that will be introduced during the legislative session that begins in January. If the JAC doesn’t recommend the proposal, SCSD2 facilities director Mathers Heuck said funding would be delayed by at least a year and result in logistical issues between SCSD2 and Sheridan College.
SCSD2 superintendent Craig Dougherty said he would be extremely surprised if the proposal is not approved.
“We’ve got the design and we’ve got the land, and so I don’t foresee that happening,” Dougherty said. “…We haven’t had any indication that it won’t be funded, but you don’t know until the governor signs the budget bill.”
The funding proposal has gone through the School Facilities Commission and the Select Committee on School Facilities and will now be reviewed by the JAC.
If the JAC recommends the proposal and if it is approved by the Wyoming Legislature, bidding for school construction would begin in February or March 2019. The funding would go into effect July 1, 2019, and construction would likely be completed by fall 2020 before school starts.
Rep. Mark Kinner, R-Sheridan, will become a voting member of the Appropriations Committee in 2019 and will voice his support for the Schiffer School bill in meetings this week.
“From what I know at this point, I’m certainly going to be in favor of that,” Kinner said. “…If we don’t take it up here and agree to send it off to the Legislature, we will certainly do that when we get to Cheyenne in January. That’s one (proposal) that I plan to be keeping my eyes on.”
The proposed building will take up 22,000 square feet and have an enrollment capacity of 116 students, with room for future expansion. It will be located on 3.61 acres of land at the south end of the Sheridan College campus. The school currently serves SCSD2 high school students, but the eventual plan is for the new collaborative school to also include students from SCSD1, SCSD3 and Johnson County.
In February of this year, the Legislature approved a school design proposal for $1.289 million. Heuck said architecture company Malone Belton Abel has almost completed 35 percent of the design phase of the new building. Once that is finished, the next design stages will focus on minute details.
“We’ve got the size of the rooms and the floor plan and some finishes figured out, but (we are) far from knowing what color the carpet is going to be and that sort of thing,” Heuck said.
Heuck also said the building could expand horizontally in the future if enrollment demand increases.
“We didn’t just take this (potential) building as is and plop it in the middle (of campus),” Heuck said. “It’s kind of an L-shape at the moment. We made sure that we could build onto the end of that L and it would still fit in with the area and tie into the bus loop … We’re definitely poised to add on if we need to.”
Steps in the construction process for the new school have been approved by officials so far, and this week is expected to result in another step forward.