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State architects sizing up School District 25 facilities requirements

Dec 13, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Riverton school administrators have met with architects hired by the state to assess capacity needs in six Wyoming districts.

Fremont County School District 25 superintendent Terry Snyder said Riverton is one of six districts identified for site reviews this year.

"They'll look at what options they have and what facilities we have," Snyder said this month. "(They'll consider) what land we own and what options possibly would be for the future."

Representatives from MOA Architecture in Casper arrived in town Tuesday for the first of several meetings scheduled through February, when the architects hope to make funding recommendations to the state. Project manager Bill Speck said the initial meeting was organized to inform local administrators about the site review process, but architects also got feedback Tuesday about Riverton's specific needs.

"We wanted to really gather data specifically from the district," Speck said.

School principals said they appreciated the opportunity to speak out during the Dec. 6 meeting, commending the MOA architects for asking questions related to instruction and best practices for students.

"I really liked that," Ashgrove Elementary School principal Alleta Baltes said. "Instead of just room, they cared about instructional needs. That hasn't always been the case."

Baltes said she and several of her colleagues talked to the architects about traffic issues at Riverton schools that are affecting the entire community. According to Baltes, it takes some parents 30 minutes to drop off or pick up students at Rendezvous Elementary School, and the congestion affects other buildings too.

"We're working on that," Baltes said.

Rendezvous principal Mary Jo Chouinard added a few more

suggestions regarding her school, which was renovated this year to house all of Riverton's third- through fifth-graders. She said the squeeze has left little space for special education in particular.

"I don't think (MOA) had any idea the number of special ed programs we have here," she said. "There's occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language therapy, a behavior resource room and a multi-handicapped room. We have four learning resource rooms all with teacher and student loads. ... Those all take space."

When architects discussed the possibility of adding onto existing school buildings to address capacity needs, Chouinard said she discouraged the idea. She pointed out that most of Riverton's facilities are aging, and at Rendezvous she said her staff deal with electrical outages on a regular basis because of the building's overloaded system.

"All of a sudden there's a much bigger draw on electrical demand, (and) these buildings were not wired for all the technology," Chouinard said. "As we've had to keep adding things ... it's really stressing the electrical ability of the building. Every time you start adding smart boards or outlets in newly created rooms, we have to keep expanding that."

When the site review process is complete, Chouinard hopes MOA will recommend Riverton be granted funding for at least one new school.

"Two would be ideal," she said. "But we'll start small."

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