Meadowlark Elementary School, a potential model for a new fifth-sixth grade school in the Central or South Triads, Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2019 in northeast Cheyenne. Nadav Soroker/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – As its student population grows, Laramie County School District 1 may add another school for fifth- and sixth-graders in the coming years. But the plan will need to be funded through the state Legislature during its upcoming budget session.

The potential addition was included in the district’s cost-effectiveness report, presented during the LCSD1 Board of Trustees meeting Monday night.

The district has seen substantial student enrollment growth over the last decade. Since the 2012-13 school year, the district’s student population has increased 9.35%. This school year also marked the first time the district has topped 14,000 students.

The construction project would cost about $27 million. LCSD1 Superintendent Boyd Brown said funding for the new school is included in Gov. Mark Gordon’s budget proposal for the School Facilities Commission, though it’ll need to gain final approval from the Legislature during its budget session, which starts Feb. 10.

Brown said administrators haven’t made a decision on the school’s location, though they have talked about putting it in the Central or South triad of the district.

“Those are the two areas that are impacted right now at the elementary level, although we know that we’re growing because of subdivisions in the East and South triads the fastest,” Brown said.

The setup for the new school would be similar to the one for Meadowlark Elementary School in the district’s East triad, with fifth- and sixth-graders from surrounding schools heading to the new one.

Dave Bartlett, LCSD1 assistant superintendent of support operations, said the district originally changed the configuration of those schools so that it could meet the 16:1 student-to-teacher ratio outlined in state statute for kindergarten through third-grade classrooms. The district hasn’t met that ratio for every grade level and triad, and Bartlett said the new elementary school will help its efforts to do so.

“By doing one fifth- and sixth-grade school and pulling the fifth- and sixth-graders out of the feeder schools, that gave us enough classrooms then to rightsize the elementary schools within the neighborhoods, so really what we would look to do is carry on that same theme,” Bartlett said.

Bartlett said the district hopes to eventually get supplemental funding to build a second additional school, though that funding will not come during this legislative session.

“If the Central triad gets the next one, then the South triad would get the following, or vice versa,” Bartlett said.

Brown noted other economic factors that could lead to more population growth, including plans to replace the Cold War-era Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles at F.E. Warren Air Force Base as part of the U.S. Air Force’s Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program.

“If that (project) comes in, they’re looking at somewhere around 2,000 people coming in over 10 years,” Brown said.

Brown said with many housing units being built in Cheyenne to address growing demand, the district will be keeping tabs on where most of that expansion occurs.

“We’re looking to decide where we might need schools based on how quickly they’re putting those in and just trying to make sure that we plan,” Brown said. “The study is kind of a road map and a plan for us. But as we move forward, we’ll be going to the board each time that we have to do something, and going to the School Facilities Commission each time, getting approval on both sides, and then that would go to the Legislature for funding.”

Brown said it takes about five years from the time funding is approved for a new school building to be constructed.

“It’s a good thing that our district and our community continues to grow,” Brown said. “We’ll continue to try to build schools fast enough to take care of the capacity as it comes in.”

Tom Coulter is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s state government reporter. He can be reached at tcoulter@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3124. Follow him on Twitter at @tomcoulter_.

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