Park Elementary may have four new classrooms in the near future as the Natrona County School District considers expanding the central Casper school. Meanwhile, the school board voted Monday night to hire an Oklahoma company to draw up plans for a possible practice swimming pool at Natrona County High.
Of the two projects, the Park expansion is more advanced: A school board subcommittee will recommend the project be approved by the full board later this month, at a cost of $2.1 million. An additional $2.75 million in repairs is also needed at the school, district officials have said.
Officials said the school, which features a dual language immersion program, is over capacity because of the program and needs more space. The funds to pay for the the building’s expansion will come from the district’s capital construction account, which is a separate pot of money from the general fund that finances most of the district’s services.
The NC pool, meanwhile, is still in an exploratory phase. On Monday night, the full board approved $75,000 be set aside for Hastings + Chivetta, an architectural firm from Tulsa, Oklahoma, to draw up conceptual designs for the project. The school currently does not have a pool and competes using Kelly Walsh’s aquatic facility.
On Monday night, before the vote, trustee Kevin Christopherson stressed that the board was not yet voting on whether to build a pool there. He said he hoped that it eventually would be built, as NC is the only 4A school in the state to not have its own pool.
Board member Angela Coleman, who joined the board in 2016, asked why the pool hadn’t been part of the previous construction at the school. NC recently completed the last of its yearslong renovation. Trustee Dave Applegate, who previously served as the chairman of the board, said that Natrona County residents had previously rejected a bond issue to build the pool.
After that, Applegate continued, the board began setting aside money every year to fund the project, rather than raising taxes. He said the board, when it was planning the renovations of NC and KW, decided to build a competition track and a practice pool at the west Casper school and a practice track and a competition pool at the east Casper school.
Christopherson added that the board did not have conceptual designs done when the bond issue was previously before voters.
Ultimately, the board voted 6 to 2 — board member Dana Howie was not present — to fund the designs. Trustees Coleman and Kianna Smith both voted against it.
During trustee comments at the end of Monday’s meeting, the two criticized transparency concerns they say they have with the board. Smith said she wished the conversation to give staff $1,500 bonuses — a decision the board made last month as a way to hand out a one-time savings — would have been discussed publicly and voted upon.
Coleman agreed generally about spending transparency but within the context of the pool she said that though she supported the project, the board should “evaluate” public input about how money should be spent.
Coleman, whose husband Seth is the mayor of Mills, was a vocal critic of the board’s decision to close four schools last June. One of those buildings, Mountain View, was the last school in Mills.