Wyoming legislators have approved two draft bills dealing with factors that drive how large to build schools. They didn’t advance a proposed bill that would have given Wyoming school districts more responsibility over construction and renovation projects.
The Legislature’s Select School Facilities Committee on Monday approved draft legislation to set into state law a method to project school enrollment five years from project completion.
The School Facilities Department used the method for the Natrona County School District’s high school projects, but it has not been codified.
Previously, the department calculated school capacity based on enrollment projected five years from the start of the construction project.
The five-year enrollment calculation applies to all projects approved in the last budget and moving forward, according to Rep. Steve Harshman, R-Casper.
The committee also approved a draft bill that would place into statute the current method used to calculate capacity at secondary schools and a new method to calculate capacity at elementary schools.
The purpose is to ensure schools are built large enough for their populations, according to Harshman.
Currently, secondary schools are built to 85 percent capacity, and the bill would maintain that percentage.
The School Facilities Department and the School Facilities Commission had proposed building to 87.5 percent of capacity for high schools, 90 percent for middle schools and 100 percent for elementary schools, according to Harshman.
The bill also proposes a new method called the “homeroom instructional method” to calculate capacity of elementary schools. The committee agreed to build elementary schools at
100 percent capacity, but that percentage only applies to “homerooms,” or the major classroom spaces. The percentage doesn’t apply to other spaces like gyms and art rooms, according to Harshman.
The failed draft legislation to increase school board involvement in construction wasn’t “ready for prime-time,” Harshman said. The bill was designed to speed up the school construction process and save costs associated with delays. Legislators still want to move in that direction, Harshman said.
“I don’t think we’re at that point right now to mandate it,” he added.
The committee also set aside a bill to establish an advisory committee to the School Facilities Commission to facilitate planning projects and communication between the commission and the School Facilities Department.
The department manages planning, design and construction of school projects. The commission oversees the department.
Legislators want to give the School Facilities Department time to gain momentum after many recent changes, several of them legislative initiatives, Harshman said. It seems they’ve crested the hill, he added.
Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, said he wasn’t convinced the proposal would work as intended and could add to the bureaucracy and slow proceedings.