District Two facilities budget headed for legislative approval

The School Facilities Commission met in Casper on Nov. 17 to review projects they will be sending to the legislature for funding approval. Lovell High School’s remodel is one of many projects on the drawing board that the legislature will be considering for approval early next year.

Supt. Dan Coe attended the meeting to monitor the school’s interests and to make sure the budget for remaining phases of the school’s remodel are still on track to go through the state legislative approval process.

By remodeling instead of building new, the school saves the state around $10 million, according to Coe. He also noted that by remodeling instead of building new, the school will not lose square footage due to new building requirements.

“If we were to build new, we would have to wait another five to 10 years before this could be done,” explained Coe. “Additionally, we would fall under the new guidelines for construction and we would lose in excess of 30,000 square feet. We have a good solid building and we can do it quicker, cheaper and won’t lose the square footage if we remodel.”

The first phase of the project was completed in the summer of 2010, which included an HVAC upgrade with new heating and air conditioning systems. It also included new6energy efficient windows and an electrical upgrade. The school also replaced 50-year-old boilers, with boilers that are much more cost effective than the ones that were replaced during this phase of the remodel. The school is already seeing savings from the energy efficient improvements made during the first phase of the remodel.

“The old windows were from the sixties, they were single-pane and if you stood next to them you could actually feel the wind coming through,” said Coe. “Between the new boilers and the windows we are already seeing energy savings.”

Right now, the SFC is recommending that phases two and three will be funded together so the school can work on the projects for both phases simultaneously. This will allow the phases to be designed at the same time, and will allow the school’s architects to be systematic in their approach to the school’s redesign.

Coe hopes that this comprehensive approach will make the construction phase as seamless as the design.

Phase two will include remodeling the fine arts and vocational education areas. It will also include a new serving kitchen, which is something the school has done without for many years and a large multi-purpose room. The design of the area will allow many uses. It will be a commons, an eating area, a place to hold school assemblies and a venue for public performances. The area will be configured to seat up to 300 people.

Currently, the school does not have a cafeteria or kitchen for students. Students take lunch either off campus or use the elementary school’s facilities.

“The sense of school spirit that can be promoted by giving the students their own place to gather is a big factor in this,” said Coe.

It will take another $5.5 million to complete the final two phases of the remodel. If the funding is approved during the upcoming legislative session, Coe expects it to be available in May of 2012. The school’s architects will begin the design process soon afterward, and the project should be out to bid by early 2013. Coe anticipates construction to begin shortly after bids are reviewed and accepted. The project will take approximately a year and a half to complete.

“If we are able to begin in January of 2013, it will put us at May of 2014 when everything would be complete,” said Coe. “As with any remodel, we expect to to do some juggling, like shifting classrooms around, but once the big picture is done it will be nice.”

Coe is pleased that the funding process is still progressing, and he has already discussed the project with Sen. Ray Peterson, who is on the Senate Appropriations Committee. The committee is meeting for a 20-day session in the month of February and Coe expects to know if the funding has been approved by the beginning of March.

By Patti Carpenter