Feb 13, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterSandstrom Architecture is the firm chosen to help design the new K-3 elementary school in Riverton.
The Fremont County School District 25 board of trustees approved the recommendation and contract Tuesday.
The Utah-based company designed Pinedale Elementary School, and District 25 intends to use the Pinedale facility as a template for the new Riverton school, thereby getting the school built sooner, and at lower cost.
Riverton school board members, parents, teachers, school staff and Wyoming School Facilities Department representatives toured the Pinedale school on Feb. 3. The group also toured Rawlins Elementary School and Gannett Peak Elementary School in Lander.
The tours came during school hours, giving the group the opportunity to see traffic flow from vehicles and buses outside, as well as students and staff in the halls, offices and classrooms inside.
The visitors asked questions on the impact the buildings have had on student learning, climate control systems and lighting design, storage, safety features, construction materials and other topics.
Time, costs savings
School District 25 superintendent Terry Snyder said costs were compared for the Pinedale school prototype vs. designing and building a customized school from the ground up. The state would save roughly $107,000 if Riverton chose the Pinedale prototype.
"We hoped to be able to save the state some money and save us time if we looked at a prototype," Snyder said. "I believe we've accomplished both of those goals."
The new school could now be open and ready to move into by the summer of 2016 as opposed to the expected opening of January 2017 for a custom design.
Some modifications to the Pinedale prototype could be made to fit Riverton's requirements more closely.
A majority of those touring the schools and interviewing the architects favored the Pinedale prototype, Snyder said.
"The building, in my opinion, had most of the concepts we were looking for," board member Mark Stone said. "It was almost like shock and awe -- 'this is a nice building.'"
The right questions
Snyder said the time and effort put in by several people to research firms and prototypes, investigate construction components, and review design details and other factors in building a new school were critical to making initial decisions in the project's process.
"To me, this is the type of research you have to do for this project," Snyder said. "This is the time we're trying to ask the right questions."
Troy Decker, planning director with the Wyoming Schools Facilities Department, joined in the tours and echoed Snyder's comments on the architect selection.
"Your district has put in so much time and effort on the front end of this thing," Decker said. "The investment up front by this district is such a tremendous encouragement to me from the state perspective."
Although his job is done with the district for now, the project will now be passed on to the SFD project manager.
"I have total confidence that this was the best selection," Decker said. "When I walk away from this I know you have a design professional working to further the education of your children."
References associated with Sandstrom Architecture gave positive feedback and helped assure Snyder of the good work the firm could perform in Riverton.
"It does appear that this is an organization that will serve us extremely well," Snyder told the school board Tuesday, "both in meeting our designs and through the workings of that process."
Snyder recommended to the firm three local surveying engineers that could provide a "historical knowledge" that would benefit both the architects and the project. Sandstrom chose to collaborate with Apex Surveying of Riverton.
Sandstrom provided the district with proposed plans for the new school. Snyder said school areas designed for tutoring and other flexible instructional space were important components in the plan. Such space could be set up in separate pods or configured to bring students together for a multi-use purpose.
The new school is planned for 16 acres of land at 1200 W. Monroe Ave. in south Riverton. Projected capacity is 360 students.
The school will help District 25 meet a 16:1 student-to-teacher ratio required by the State of Wyoming. In October, the Wyoming School Facilities Commission authorized $400,000 for the purchase of the land. That transaction has been completed.
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