CHEYENNE — The Natrona County School District’s massive school construction request obtained the binding signature of Gov. Matt Mead on Tuesday.
The 2013-14 school capital construction funding bill sets aside more than $175 million for district schools, including $119 million to renovate historic Natrona County High School.
The allocation, along with the more than $108 million already appropriated for planning and design, should also be enough to complete the renovations of Kelly Walsh High School and NCHS, as well as the construction of a new campus to house alternative Roosevelt High School and a shared Center for Advanced and Professional Studies, or CAPS.
Natrona County School District Superintendent Joel Dvorak said some issues still need to be worked out, including the timing of the construction projects and whether the district should kick in money to expand the high schools’ enrollment capacity beyond what the state envisions.
CAPS, as envisioned, would offer upper-level career and academic courses to all district high school students through four academies: business, agriculture and natural resources; architecture, construction, manufacturing and engineering; health science and human services; and creative arts, communication and design.
As part of the renovations and possible expansions to Kelly Walsh and NCHS, Natrona County’s high school student capacity would rise to handle the projected enrollment of 3,527 in 2016.
However, Natrona County officials have said the state should plan for and pay to build the high school system for 4,100 students — the number of ninth- through 12th-graders projected to enroll in 2020 — so the buildings will last at least 50 years and to avoid future construction with a higher price tag.
Another issue has been whether to start construction on all three high school projects at once or to stagger start times.
Dvorak said Tuesday the decision on when to begin construction won’t happen until the district gets halfway through the design process for the three high school projects.
Planning for renovations to NCHS and Kelly Walsh and construction of the new shared facility was paused in July, when the state School Facilities Department requested “education specifications” for the schools.
Under the capital construction bill, the renovation money for NCHS wouldn’t be made available until July 2013. The rest of the money would be available either immediately or as of July 1 of this year.
The bill also includes $8.4 million to begin construction on a new North Casper Elementary School and $1.8 million toward work on Southridge Elementary.
The only money for Natrona County taken out by legislators this year was a proposed $16.3 million to renovate Roosevelt. That funding was placed on a “bubble list” to be considered for next year’s supplemental budget.