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State OKs bigger school when Fort Washakie builds

Oct 24, 2012 - By Christina George, Staff Writer

The SFD action included upping square footage of the new Fort Washakie facility, approving an additional $13 million in construction

funds, and another $1.5 million in planning funds.

The Wyoming School Facilities Department took action recently that will provide additional funding and square footage for the future Fort Washakie School.

"Everybody was beaming," said Fremont County School District 21 superintendent Richard McClements about trustees after learning the good news.

The SFD action included upping square footage of the new Fort Washakie facility from 104,000 square feet to 122,318 square feet. The original $25 million price tag increased to $38 million. Also, planning funds grew from $900,000 to $2.4 million.

The changes are because of an anticipated growth in kindergarten through eighth-grade enrollment.

McClements said the SFD uses projected enrollment figures for the fifth year after a facility is complete. Fort Washakie School is on track to be finished in 2015, and the SFD estimated enrollment in 2020 to be 656 students.

McClements said the school's contingent also determined that kindergarten through fifth-grade classes would be separate from the sixth- through eighth-grade junior high, and that a roof would connect both schools.

McClements said this decision came down to dollars. If two separate schools were built, he said the district would only receive $26.5 million to build a 112,000-square-foot facility.

"It is to our advantage to keep it K-8," he said.

Despite the recent good news, there is still another hurdle Fort Washakie has to clear -- building a high school.

Earlier this year the Wyoming Board of Education approved the district's request to merge the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school system with Fort Washakie Charter High School to create a K-12 education system.

Before the transition, Fort Washakie was one of two K-8 school districts remaining in Wyoming. The other is School District 38 in Arapahoe.

This is the first academic year the high school is unified with its K-8 counterpart.

Ninth- through 12th-grade classes continue to be in rooms in the district's gymnasium and modular trailers.

With unification granted, McClements said the district is working toward getting separate funds for a new high school facility.

The SFD will come up with the high school's projected enrollment to determine square footage and funding. McClements said Fort Washakie plans to ask the Legislature for the funds in the 2013 session.

An upturn in enrollment at the high school already this year has solidified the necessity for a separate building.

"They are kind of busting at the seams," McClements said.

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