SFC approves plan to build new GMS

by nathan oster

Three months after it rolled the dice, the Big Horn County School District No. 3 board of trustees has apparently come up a big winner in its bid for a new Greybull Middle School building.

Supt. Barry Bryant announced during a special meeting Monday night that the School Facilities Commission had approved the project, doing so on the recommendation of the School Facilities Department staff and the architectural firm, MOA, which earlier this year conducted a capacity study of the GMS/GHS campus.

MOA, the SFD, and ultimately, the SFC itself, all supported the plan pitched by Greybull staff and school board members, which calls for the construction of a 14,710-square-foot addition onto the Greybull Middle School Gym, the remodeling of 5,017 square feet on the opposite side of the GMS Gym, and the conversion of the current GMS into an administrative central office.

“One thing that helped us,” Supt. Bryant said, “is that we added some kids in the second semester, and when that happened, we were able to show them that their recommendation (to remodel the current GMS facility) wouldn’t work.”

In addition to that, the SFD and SFC both recognized the limitations of the current building, Bryant said, citing not only overcrowding but also ADA-compliance issues, inadequate lighting, inadequate hall space and inadequate lighting.

In March, the school board faced a crucial decision.

MOA Architecture, the consulting firm hired by the state to do the capacity study, was recommending a plan that called for limited renovations to GMS and the Quigg Building, with the biggest change being a relocation of the GMS computer labs to the Quigg Building, into a classroom now used by industrial arts teacher Ralph Wensky. The SFD was also backing that plan as the best and most cost-effective option to address the issues plaguing GMS.

The school board never bought it, however.  Rather than accepting it, the board took a different course, agreeing to throw their full support behind a plan to build a new GMS which, the believed, would solve all the issues of concern — and for far less than the $10 million projection put forth by the SFD and MOA.

During that March discussion, school board members expressed concern about pumping $1.5 to $2 million into an already 30-year-old building. Trustees were also troubled by the impact of the proposed renovation on the Quigg Building, where Wensky currently uses the classroom identified as the landing spot for the GMS computer lab for CAD instruction.

MOA’s recommended option, Option 1, also called for upgrades to the Quigg Building’s HVAC system (to better filter dust) and the other industrial arts classroom used by Wensky at the present time.

While initially supportive of the MOA and SFD recommendation to renovate, Bryant told the school board that night, “Whatever you choose, we’re going to fight for it like it’s the only drink of water in town and we’re thirsty.”

Late last week, that drink was served.

Bryant said the SFC approved the construction of a new middle school — but did so with a condition.  The school’s increasing enrollment drove the decision — and it’ll have to remain steady at least until October, when the SFD plans to take another look at the numbers.

GMS ended the year with 132 students, Bryant said that as long its within “plus or minus 10 percent” in October, the plan will proceed. “I don’t expect there to be any holdups,” he said.

The current conceptual plan calls for the 14,710 square foot wing to be situated between what is currently the front entrance to the GMS Gym and the south wall of the Greybull High School building.

It would house nine classrooms.  Six would have windows to the outside and ambient light.  The three that would not have windows to the outside would instead have vaulted ceilings to let the ambient light in. Bryant said the plan is current to make one of those three rooms the science room, the other two special education classrooms.

The school district’s plan also calls for the west wing of the current GMS Gym to be renovated.  Currently it houses Special Services, including the offices of Curriculum and Grants Coordinator Sara Schlattmann and Special Services Director Lee Clucas, as well as office space for technology coordinator Bob Leach and a computer lab.

Under the new plan, all of that space would become the school’s new computer lab — and those offices which are current there, as well as those of the district’s maintenance personnel and administrative team now headquartered at the central office would be moved into the current GMS building, which would require renovations of its own to accommodate the changes.

Unlike the current GMS, the new building would not have a library. Instead, students would need to use the Greybull High School library.

The current middle school building is 13,454 square feet.

“We’re going to gain 4,300 square feet (as a result),” Bryant said. “But really, it’s going to be more because we won’t have a library in there and plus, we’ll gain the back office space (in the GMS Gym).”

Bryant said the tentative budget for the project is $4.7 million, although at this point, “The SFC has approved the project, but not necessarily the money.”  When completed, the building will need to be large enough to house up to 158 students.

Bryant said he met with SFD staff Tuesday morning and that the plan is to begin advertising for bids for design professional the first week in July.  The district has already been allotted $100,000 for planning purposes, but Bryant said that’ll fall far short of coving the design costs associated with the design, ple-planning, bidding and management of the project.  He estimated that those costs typically come to around 10 percent of the total project costs.  In this case, that would mean upwards of $400,000.

“The plan is to get through this ($100,000) … and then get on their agenda for sometime in September,” Bryant said.

The project will be up for legislative approval in early 2014, and Bryant said that if it’s green-lighted, the district would like to be in a position to award construction bids by the early as July of 2014.

“Best case would probably be for construction to begin sometime when the weather permits in March or April of 2015.”   Given that timeline, a new building could be ready for students by as early as the fall of 2015 or winter of 2016.

“The numbers are there to support this project,” Bryant said. “We grew by enough kids, but some of the other issues were concerns as well of the SFD, like the overcrowding, the suitability of the current building, the fact that kids were spread out over four buildings,