Plans for elementary school taking shape

Mar 27, 2014 By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

School officials and the invited public got a first look Tuesday at the proposed design for the planned K-3 elementary school for Fremont County School District 25, to be located on 1200 W. Monroe Ave. in Riverton.

District superintendent Terry Snyder said the day began with an "energizing, insightful and important" meeting with district staff members from various departments, who gathered to give some final input on the design before it was presented to the public later in the afternoon.

Some areas were "completely redesigned" after the staff meeting, Snyder said, thanking administrators and district personnel for making crucial recommendations that otherwise may have been overlooked.

"What you see tonight isn't what we had this morning," he said before Tuesday evening's school board meeting. "The input from all those groups changed (the design) a lot."

Snyder said the classrooms were designed at 800 square feet and are intended for a 19:1 student-teacher in case of an influx of students. With the addition of the new building, however, the district plans to meet the state required 16:1 ratio.

The ratio at Riverton's K-3 schools is 18:1 now, with a 20:1 ratio Rendezvous Elementary School where all third, fourth and fifth graders are enrolled.

Snyder said tutoring space was a high priority for the new school's design. Classrooms were set up around flexible instruction spaces where teachers can provide individual lessons when necessary.

The classrooms also surround a large storage space and breakout room.

The middle of the building holds a large media center and computer lab as well as space for a social worker, case manager and instructional facilitators, all adjacent to rooms for special education and speech and language training.

Safety and security was a priority for architects designing the new school, who included a buzzing system that closes and locks the doors to the building with the push of a button. The feature allows administrators to secure the school while activities take place in the gymnasium, and it would be helpful in the case of an armed intruder.

Also for safety, each classroom includes a window that could be used to escape in the case of an emergency, and school resource officer space was placed close to the entrance of the building.

"We think we took Pinedale's safety and security and stepped it up even more," Snyder said.

After touring three relatively new schools in the state, a group of district officials, faculty and community members decided to use the Pinedale Elementary School prototype as their base design for the new school in Riverton. The planning format helped the district save money for the state in development and design costs, and it shortened the time it will take to open the school, Snyder said.

Architects also utilized preferred design components from all three schools toured, and they agreed to leave out other aspects that were deemed a poor fit for the Riverton school district. For example, all three schools on the tour experienced traffic problems, so for the new Riverton school, the architects and planning group created two areas for parent drop-off and pick-up. The first area would allow parents to enter the school from Monroe Avenue then exit back east to the same street.

By reaching the school from Major Avenue, parents could enter another separate egress then head back west to Major and north to Riverview Road.

Parents or visitors also would have their own parking lot, with staff parking located separately.

The entire school building covers almost 50,600 square feet based on the current design. Snyder said there was an option to use enhancement funding to either add 800 square feet of classroom space to the facility for $55,000, or expand the gymnasium for about $440,000 more.

Enhancement funding comes from the district general fund.

"Gymnasiums are the most commonly enhanced feature in elementary schools across the state of Wyoming," Snyder said.

A full-court gym would provide space for sporting events that is not available in most other schools in the district.

Plans also showed the new school's music performance would be elevated for use as a classroom and a stage. Elevating the space would allow for a stage that would not interfere with activities in the adjacent gymnasium.

The initial ideas were welcomed by school board members.

"I think we're going to have a school we're going to be very proud of for a long time," board member Mark Stone said.

Dean Peranteaux described it as a "unique approach" to the planning and ideas.

Board chairman Larry Christensen inquired about there being only one computer lab in the design. Principal architect Stephen Sandstrom from Sandstrom Architecture responded that, although the use of technology is on the rise at schools, "computers on wheels" are becoming more popular.

"Across the country there is actually starting to be a trend to actually completely do away with computer labs," Sandstrom said. "The traditional 'get up, walk to a lab for an hour or two a day' is not going to cut it in the future."

He also explained that having laptops or tablets in the classroom is seen as a new way to teach students valuable computer skills.

The first draft only showed the placement of rooms, entrances and exits, egress location, and surrounding area of the new school. Snyder said a second presentation in the future will provide a three dimensional look into the classrooms with visible details of the inside.

Community to generate name for new school

Riverton superintendent Terry Snyder proposed an idea Tuesday to begin planning the name for the new K-3 school to be located at 1200 W. Monroe Ave.

He said the community could be asked to solicit names that could be forwarded to a group of teachers. After the teachers determine the top choices, students in the district could be given the opportunity to choose their favorite name.

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