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Lander school could be Riverton model
Jan 30, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer
If the existing design could be used for Riverton's new K-3 school, months of planning time and expense could be saved.
Riverton School District 25 faculty and staff walked the corridors of Lander's new Gannett Peak Elementary School Wednesday, considering whether that building could be duplicated in Riverton for the new K-3 school.
If it proved suitable, copying the Lander school could save considerable time and money for District 25.
The Wyoming School Facilities Commission in October approved roughly $400,000 for the Riverton district to acquire 16 acres of land at 1200 W. Monroe Av.e for a new elementary school that will hold about 360 students.
The new school will help meet a state required 16:1 student-to-teacher ratio that the district currently is unable to meet due to a lack of classroom space.
The group that toured Lander's school included District 25 school board members, teachers, principals, administrative staff, district department employees and parents, and representatives from the Wyoming Schools Facilities Department.
After narrowing a list of numerous options, three final building prototypes were selected for the tours.
On Tuesday, the group toured Rawlins Elementary School, which serves grades 2-5. The two-floor building was built more than a year ago and designed by MOA Architecture out of Casper.
By Wednesday, the group was able to see a different design by Plan One Architects at the Lander School.
Examiners noticed some differences and asked architect Dan Odasz, who was directing the tour, about design features and details throughout the structure.
District 25 superintendent Terry Snyder Riverton is not restricted to using the exact model of the preferred design. Some features could be added removed to fit the desired configuration.
"We want to look at a building that's been successful for another district," Snyder said, "and then adjust a little bit to meet our needs."
Six to nine months could be eliminated from the construction process if an existing school design can be adopted in Riverton because no new architectural design and feasibility studies would be necessary.
The group will visit Pinedale Elementary on Monday.
Snyder said the Riverton visitors saw many "excellent characteristics" at the Rawlins school and "identified some concerns" as well. Members asked about the building materials and flooring and noticed the energy efficient features. The separate, spacious area and classrooms for special education instruction was a favorite for the group.
In Lander, a majority of the group found the color schemes and natural sunlight to work great for the building. The newly- built school holds about 560 students.
Ashgrove Elementary School principal Alleta Baltes looked closer into Lander's office entrance area and the conference room. Troy Becker from the Schools Facilities Department said the natural light and colors made the school more "inviting."
The lighting characteristics work well for Gannett Peak art teacher Wendy Elias, who said it helped with the students' behavior and mood. She pointed out the four sinks set at a lower level for the students and tackable surface on the cabinets.
Elias said that during the design phase, she helped incorporate the rectangular tables and lines on the floor before the sinks that helped serve to guide students. Her own storage room beside her desk also can serve as a safe room in case of a school lockdown.
"I could fit the whole class in here," Elias said.
Odasz showed the group the doors that were held open by magnets attached to the wall and doors. He pointed out features on the ceilings, hallways, and storage space. He also took the group to the gymnasium, computer lab, teacher collaboration spaces and the library, where librarian Cady Shoutis shared what has worked well and what hasn't. She like several design points but wished the library had been more centrally located.
"It's not quite the hub it use to be," Shoutis said, adding that it's much closer to the second- or third- graders, but farther from most other grades. The space inside the library has overall "worked out really well," she said.
Gannett Peak principal Jade Morton, told the group that input should be a priority in order to have a successful building that worked well for everyone.
"Get your staff as involved as possible in the beginning," Morton said. "They're very passionate about their spaces."
He also said the school had problems with the pick-up and drop-off locations on the school campus. Those issues could have been less of a problem, Morton said, had the school been built on an existing site. He said the Riverton district could work a better system in its new school with the site acquired.
"We were pretty limited here with what we could have," he said.
Premature design plans include five sections per grade level at the new Riverton school with two additional classrooms. The district's proposal asks for a separate area from the gym to serve breakfast and lunch. It also asks for an art and music room, two special education areas, a speech language area, a social worker area, and other multiple use areas.
The new school would cover roughly 50,000 square feet with a budget of $13 million. Any additional features or "enhancements" that don't fit in the budget would have to be paid for by the district.
"I don't want to just take this school and sell it to you," Odasz told the group. "I want it to fit what you want."
Odasz said that Plan One works well with the state facilities department and knows the contracting community. He described the Lander school as the firm's "best example."