Before it's there

Mar 14, 2014 By Steven R. Peck

Creative approaches in construction and staffing hallmarks of new K-3 plans

Fremont County School District 25 in Riverton is taking an ingenious approach in making preparations for the new elementary, in terms of both the building and the people.

Last week the district named a principal for the new school, even though construction has yet to begin and the earliest the facility for grades K-3 will be open is 2016.

But the school board and superintendent Terry Snyder see value in naming a principal now, so that there is a person who can concentrate on issues central to the new school. The person could answer inquiries about equipment and staffing so the school has its own identity even before it exists. That should give the new place something of a head start.

As for the building, because of the state-mandated 16:1 student-teacher ratio in elementary schools, Riverton needed its new school faster than normal processes would permit. One way to speed things up was to find a less-expensive way to build. That led to the visitations by Riverton officials at several other new schools around the state. If one of them proved suitable for District 25's vision, could the existing blueprints for that school be used in Riverton?

The answer was "yes," so the time and costs associated with a ground-up architectural and engineering plan could be saved, while allowing enough flexibility in customizing the school to make it ours.

Creative partnerships involving neighboring landowners, the Wyoming School Facilities Department and the City of Riverton are facilitating access to the south Riverton site, and the accompanying extensions of Monroe Avenue to the west and Major Avenue to the south can benefit the city in ways beyond the school itself.

Building a new school certainly ought to be a positive for a community, not just in terms of education. It can have beneficial effects on short-term employment during construction, long-term employment after it, local infrastructure as new streets, sidewalks and expanded utilities take shape, and the invigoration of an area of town that the hubbub of a new school can provide.

The school isn't there yet, but that doesn't mean the administrative organization for it can't start taking shape. As the innovative process to building it moves forward, an equally innovative human approach is doing the same.

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