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A unique carbon copy

Feb 21, 2014 - By Steven R. Peck

Building Pinedale's school in Riverton

Let's not spend even one second in Riverton worrying that the new elementary school now being planned is going to be a near carbon copy of a school that already stands in Pinedale. Instead, let's be glad that is what we're getting, because it will meet a pressing need a lot faster than the alternative.

Some in Fremont County School District 25 might wish for a one-of-a-kind architectural masterpiece unique to our district. But that's not what we need. What we need is a new school to handle a growing number of elementary school children, as well as some relief from the struggle of trying to satisfy a state mandate that says schools can't have more than 16 students per every one teacher in a classroom.

Coming as it did at the same time the state also ruled that Lincoln Elementary School in Riverton must be abandoned, the 16:1 order made things difficult in Riverton schools in terms of compliance. Venerable Rendezvous Elementary, which began life more than 50 years ago as Riverton Junior High School (grades 7-9) and later became Riverton Middle School (grades 6-8) is now a grades 3-5 elementary school that has been remodeled, reconfigured, reimagined and repurposed in just about every conceivable way other than partitioning the gymnasium for classroom space in order to approach the 16:1 mandate. Even at that, we're not making it. In the meantime, the struggle to comply has led to the creation of the largest-enrollment elementary school in Wyoming.

While the statistical result is getting District 25 closer to the 16:1 benchmark on a classroom-by-classroom basis, the practical effect has been an overstuffed Rendezvous Elementary. Recalling the words of the Vietnam War-era U.S. general who didn't notice the absurdity of his remark when he said, "It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it," it has become necessary to create an overcrowded school in order to reduce overcrowding in schools.

So, once the state agreed to supply the funds for a new school, there wasn't any time to waste. But that's precisely what would have happened had District 25 undertaken the kind of site analysis, construction consultation, community hearings, architectural planning and customized construction that have become more or less standard procedure in school construction.

Instead, district leaders decided to see if some other school, already built, could be copied for Riverton's purposes. They found it earlier this month in Pinedale.

Even at that, it will take more than a year to get the school built and ready to occupy, but that's about half the time a custom school would require.

True, our school won't be one of a kind on paper -- but it still will be unique. The location will be different, from the zip code to the landscaping. The sign outside will be different, as will the views from the windows and the playground. The same construction crew that built the one in Pinedale is unlikely to build this one, so there will be eccentricities of technique and preferences that will make it different.

Also, the design will permit some fine tunes and tweaks specific to District 25 that will differ from the Pinedale school. It will be the same at the blueprint level, but the finished product, while closely similar, will be our own.

That's only part of it. Of course, the primary difference between the two will be the people inside our new school. The staff, the faculty and, especially, the replenishing generations of students, immediately and forever, will bring distinction to the new school that will be unique to us.

Our school district is growing. That's a very good thing. So we need a new school, and we've found a quicker way to get it. That's a very good thing too.

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