CHEYENNE – Laramie County School District 1 officials gathered with community members Thursday afternoon to break ground on the new Coyote Ridge Elementary.

The celebration was more than two years in the making, after nearly $25 million for the fifth and sixth grade building was approved by the Wyoming Legislature in 2020. An additional $5 million was appropriated during the 2022 budget session to accommodate for inflation and supply chain issues, which guaranteed the completion of the project.

Students are now expected to walk through the doors of the 73,000-square-foot facility at the start of 2024.

“One of the exciting things about opening a school, really, is that you get to watch from the ground up what it looks like, and how that impacts the future of our community, the future of our region and our state, and most of all our students and education,” LCSD1 Superintendent Margaret Crespo told attendees. “So when we think about these spaces and these new and innovative ways that our community engages with the world, we’re mirroring that as we build this building.”

Coyote Ridge is a part of an effort to relieve capacity issues in the district for at least four to five other elementaries in the Central triad, which LCSD1 Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Jim Fraley said was a notion introduced with the construction of Meadowlark Elementary in the East triad six years ago. He said he is excited to see students have access to the amenities and space that the new school will offer.

District facilities director Andy Knapp said the design was meant to create a more cohesive environment than industrial-style schools from six or seven decades ago. Natural light, open and collaborative spaces and newer technology were all implemented in the plans.

Fraley also told the Wyoming Tribune Eagle the location on Powderhouse Road gave students a greater chance to branch out. He said there are biking trails nearby, open fields, and they won’t be stacked up on top of each other. The school site is approximately 15 acres in size.

“Students get to go out and explore the great, wide open Wyoming,” he said.

Other attendees were also excited for the chance to give students in Cheyenne the space they needed, including Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne. He’s been working within the Legislature to get the facilities needed for school districts struggling with overcrowding and deteriorating buildings. He said with the continued population growth in the Capital City, it was fantastic to see a new school building constructed for greater learning capabilities.

But he said finding the funding for these opportunities across the state is getting more and more difficult, which the Legislature has to address in the coming years.

“Wyoming is going to have to determine how it funds itself without coal bonus money. It’s becoming tougher. We used to build five to 10 schools a year, or replace them or furnish them,” he said. “Now, it’s one, if we’re lucky.”

Jasmine Hall is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. She can be reached by email at jhall@wyomingnews.com or by phone at 307-633-3167. Follow her on Twitter @jasminerhphotos and on Instagram @jhrose25.

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