by nathan oster
Big Horn County School District No. 3 has received a $100,000 commitment from the School Facilities Commission to proceed with the planning of a renovation to the high school that would address capacity concerns at the middle school.
One problem with that, however: The board is on record as favoring a different option, one calling for the construction of a new GMS building and a relocation of administrative offices into the existing GMS.
Supt. Barry Bryant made a pitch to that effect during an April 18 telephone meeting with the SFC, and while the SFC leans toward supporting the renovations recommended by MOA Architecture and its own School Facilities Department, Bryant saw it as a positive step nonetheless.
The SFC ultimately awarded $10 million in funding for planning and design of 19 projects intended to aid school districts running out of classroom space. The money, which was earmarked by state lawmakers, was divided among 18 school districts.
GMS ranked 10th on the chart of 19 projects that got green-lighted by the SFC.
“It’s a huge step forward,” said Bryant. “It tells us, ‘Yes, we agree with the use of the loading factor. Yes, we agree that the alternate methodology should be used. And yes, we are going to fix it for you.’
“Now it’s just going to come down to how we’re all going to fix it.”
Bryant said he plans to continue lobbying the SFC that the new school building is the best option. If he hasn’t convinced them by May 1, he plans to try to get on the agenda for the next SFC meeting.
The SFD’s recommendation calls for renovations to the Quigg Building and GMS. In particular, it would relocate the GMS computer lab to the Quigg Building and one of the classrooms now used by industrial arts teacher Ralph Wensky.
By moving the computer lab out of GMS, the SFD believes that the existing GMS building could be reconfigured in such a way to create wider hallways, larger classrooms and additional natural lighting.
The estimated cost of this remedy is slightly under $1.5 million.
While not totally rejecting that proposed solution, the school board favors a new building. The trustees agreed to pursue Option 3, which called for the construction of a new wing onto the current GHS to support the new GMS facility. The wing would be located between the current GHS and the GMS Gym.
The SFD and the school district differ greatly on the cost of a new building.
The SFD estimated it at $10 million.
Supt. Barry Bryant told the SFC in a letter that the district’s architectural firm ran the numbers and came up with an estimate of around $4.3 million, which includes renovations to the GMS Gym and alterations to the existing GMS to convert it to administrative office space.
“Based on projected enrollment increases, I think we’ve got good legs to stand on for a new middle school,” Bryant said. “It solves a multitude of problems for us.
He spelled those out in his letter to the SFC which are highlighted below:
“A new MS wing wing connected to the high school utilizes existing space. The GHS library would serve both GMS and GHS. The admin rooms and computer lap in the GMS Gym area woulud be refurbished into one large computer lab.
“We plan to possibly add an agriculture teacher in the Quigg Building space that was allocated in Option 1 to be a middle school computer lab. We currently bus 17 students to the neighboring district for agriculture classes.
“A new middle school wing would be smaller than 34,481 square feet suggested by MOA since we would use the current GMS library and computer lab space remodeled in the GMS Gym.
“None of us believe (including our own architect) that the remodel can be accomplished over the summer. Thus we will have additional costs of modular classrooms not to mention the disruption to the education process temporary classrooms cause.
“Issues with the current building foundation moving. It may cost a lot more to remodel once they start and find other issues with weight loading on current foundation.
“Previous SFC and select committee members have stated that for remodels and new buildings they expect a 50-year life for their investment. Options 1 and 2 are not 50-year fixes.
“Spending $1.5 million to remodel a 32-year-old facility and still have other issues is unacceptable, especially when for approximately $4 million the middle school capacity is solved and the old building can be used as a central office, since no central office building currently exists.
“With the planned demolition of the (pool), open space is increased in the current district footprint on the secondary campus.
“Option 3 addresses the issue that the district does not have a central office.
“Option 3 allows for the reuse of the current GMS as a central office with very little remodel needed – estimated at $100,000 to $200,000.
“We have already exceeded the student enrollment growth model this year (the grow we have already had is not shown on the model until 2018.”