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(PHOTOS) Local officials ask state committee to expedite renovating Campbell County High School

Campbell County School District officials asked a state committee to prioritize funding for Campbell County High School.

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Campbell County School District officials told a state committee June 29 that they have concerns about the process for major maintenance funding.

School Board Vice-Chair Lisa Durgin said a flawed process has allowed Campbell County High School in Gillette to “fall through the cracks.”

Durgin and other board trustees and school district administrators addressed the Select Committee on School Facilities, which met June 28 and 29 at Gillette College. The 10-member committee, which includes senators and representatives, is tasked with using information from the School Facilities Commission to make a budget recommendation by Nov. 1 to the Joint Appropriations Committee and the governor.

School Facilities Commission members toured Campbell County High School and Campbell County’s transportation facility June 6.

Campbell County High School’s plumbing issues led to a leak into the front office. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

The state decides whether and what funding can be spent on school district facilities for capital construction and major maintenance projects. Legislators approve capital construction projects, which make up any renovation, construction, replacement, repair or other improvement to any school building or facility to ensure the building or facility meets the statewide building adequacy standards.

In 2022, legislators appropriated $4 million for a new school facility condition assessment for school facilities across the state. The State Construction Department contracted with international testing, inspection and certification services provider Bureau Veritas to conduct the work. Bureau Veritas rated the state’s schools with a formula to reach a facility condition index score. The formula divides repair needs by building replacement value. Higher FCI scores indicate a school has a lower remaining useful lifespan compared with schools with lower FCI scores.

Criteria, and school rankings in terms of need for renovation or replacement, have changed since the 2016 assessment.

For example, Campbell County High School and its “G” building dropped from 29th and 30th top priority in 2016, with FCI scores of .3336 and .3320, respectively. The main school building’s FCI score was 0.2132 in 2012, and the “G” building’s score was 0.3114 at that time.

It’s now lower than 150th priority, according to Bureau Veritas’ assessment.

Principal Chad Bourgeois leads commission members and board trustees on a tour of Campbell County High School. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

There are differences between the two years’ assessments. Bureau Veritas, unlike the prior evaluator, must verify component and system unit costs with local Wyoming contractors to ensure accuracy in repairs and replacement costs. It must also communicate with districts before the onsite assessment. The 2023 assessment accounts for the FCI score from present-day through 20 years from that time, with a five-year planning horizon, instead of a present-day FCI score that measures the relative condition of the facilities at the time of the assessment. The department is also proposing it conducts most cost-effective remedy studies when any school reaches at least a 0.3 FCI score within that five-year time horizon.

Bureau Veritas architect and program manager Matt Anderson said the firm was asked not to review the 2016 assessment, which was done by another group.

Facility Engineering Associates conducted the 2012 and 2016 assessments.

Sinks in a boys’ bathroom at Campbell County High School (Mary Stroka/County 17)

Associate Superintendent for Instructional Support Dennis Holmes, who’s on the precipice of retiring, said in a public comment that Campbell County High School has problems that make it on the cusp of becoming an emergency situation.

He said in an April letter to the Wyoming State Construction Department that the district has been in front of the Select Facility Commission five times regarding renovating the high school. The district is now asking for funding and support for renovating the high school in the upcoming budget cycle.

Principal Chad Bourgeois leads commission members and board trustees on a tour of Campbell County High School. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

Issues at Campbell County High School include accessibility challenges for people with disabilities. For example, Scott Clem, who uses a wheelchair and has a child who attends the school, said during a public comment portion of the meeting that he can’t rely on the school to have a functioning bathroom that he can use when he goes to the school. His child was also sent home one time during the past school year because of the school’s plumbing issues. He recalled parents scrambling to get their children into Thunder Basin High School instead of the aging Campbell County High School when that school opened in 2017.

“I don’t want to see that divide keep growing,” he said.

The school’s plumbing issues are so bad it should be a crime, Trustee Tim Hallinan said. Fecal matter is coming up in the sinks and toilets.

Durgin said she’s received calls from parents wondering why their children have to go to a school where most classrooms have buckets to catch leaking water. Principal Chad Bourgeois has sometimes carried students up the stairs because the building’s elevators don’t work.

“The educational experience for a student who goes to school here is not the same as it is in other buildings in the state,” Bourgeois said June 6.

He said a student who ran for a student body office this past spring had a campaign slogan saying that he’d bring students bathrooms that function.

Bourgeois said the building has had continual plumbing issues and difficulty keeping the building comfortable, but there aren’t any hazards. Students have complained to the nurses regarding smells from plumbing problems, but the children haven’t needed medical attention. Building code requirements have become more stringent and safety-focused since the 1970s. For example, currently, instead of sprinklers in some portions of the building, there’s fire-retardent drywall.

Windows’ seals aren’t sufficient, so they’re fogging up. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

Superintendent Alex Ayers invited the committee to visit Conestoga Elementary, which is ranked as the eighth-worst school in the state, to have more evidence that the evaluation isn’t accurate. Conestoga Elementary is in Sleepy Hollow.

“It’s not on our radar for concerns whatsoever,” Ayers said.

Instead of allocating dollars for work at Conestoga, that funding should be for Campbell County High School, Ayers said.

Recluse Elementary, which is 15 years old, also has been erroneously been given high priority with the facility assessment, Holmes said. While the principal isn’t aware of any need for renovations or replacement, Bureau Veritas’ assessment indicated it was Wyoming’s 39th highest priority school for major maintenance spending, or about ready for a most cost-effective remedy study.

Rep. Landon Brown, R-Cheyenne, said after the meeting that the committee will continue to have discussions prior to making a budget recommendation.

The meeting was recorded. A morning video and an afternoon video are posted.