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Specialist to assess plumbing problems at Campbell County High School

Campbell County School District staff is bringing in a specialist contractor to assess the situation at Campbell County High School and determine what short-term fixes are necessary before school resumes.

Campbell County School District Finance Manager Shelly Haney and Associate Superintendent for Instructional Support David Bartlett present the budget to the Campbell County School District board of trustees. (Mary Stroka/County 17)

GILLETTE, Wyo. — Campbell County School District staff are bringing in a specialist contractor to assess the situation at Campbell County High School and determine what short-term fixes are necessary before school resumes.

School Board Vice-Chair Lisa Durgin said to Wyoming’s Select Committee on School Facilities in a June 29 meeting at Gillette College that a flawed process has allowed Campbell County High School in Gillette to “fall through the cracks.” 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.

Associate Superintendent Dave Bartlett, who took over for outgoing Dennis Holmes, said the contractor, Clearwater Contracting, will come July 21 to make an evaluation in person to see what work is required to ensure the school is safe for students and staff to enter in the fall.

The company has already reviewed some video footage the district provided, he said.

“There seems to be a little bit of discrepancy of what they see in the video and what our local folks did so I think that second opinion will be really good as we work forward,” Bartlett said. “We’ll take their recommendations and we’ll apply the repairs as needed.”

He said the district hopes to make any short-term repairs required before school starts. The intent is to clean and clear out some lines of sections of the building.

Ultimately, the board is looking to the state for funding for a long-term solution.

The board agreed in its dinner meeting to send the following letter, which brings the recipients up to speed on the sanitary sewer issues and shares concerns regarding the depth of the Bureau Veritas study.

“There’s a sense of urgency here that the department study kind of glosses over is if we did have system failures out there, [they] could be catastrophic, and then we’re looking at really impacting student learning,” Bartlett said.

Superintendent Alex Ayers said that the district hopes to get onto the commission’s August meeting agenda since the July meeting was canceled.

Board chair Anne Ochs said that the condition of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system and lack of compliance with disability accessibility requirements are as concerning as the sanitary sewer system. Currently, the building is under rules that work for a building of its age.

Before the board voted on the fiscal year 2024 budget, trustee Tim Hallinan asked to set aside about $6.5 million from the budget or the Campbell County savings account for the repair of the plumbing at the school.

Hallinan said he believes the plumbing issue at the school is very serious and could be a health issue. The school district can’t wait for the legislature or the commission to put the work at Campbell County High School into its budget. If the legislature approves the funding, at least for the plumbing for a new high school, then the district could put the money aside instead of spending it.

“The rest of the issues I think can be addressed more later,” he said. “I don’t think that they’re quite as acute.”

Ochs said the board realizes the concerns and has been working on the issue over the summer. The state needs to take responsibility and the dollars should go to Campbell County’s overall needs, like playground equipment, books, technology and other services.

“We’re bringing in experts to go through the situation. We believe that we can provide a short-term fix that may give us three to five years and hopefully the state at that time will have either a new facility or they will be well in progress,” she said.

The $6.5 million for the plumbing would be for work that would need to take place over five years, she said.

“It’s not like you can go in now, at the end of July, and dig a hole and do asbestos abatement in Campbell County High School,” she said. “So we’re still talking long term. We will make sure if there are health issues at Campbell County High School, our kids and staff will not be in that building. We will make sure we’re working with experts and engineers and folks that deal with this all the time, that this is a safe environment for our kids. And we will have great learning. Now, will our kids have the same quality of school as most of the other kids in the state? No. But we’re working on it. And we’ve been working on it for 10 years. But now it’s become a lot more critical that the state moves forward.”

There weren’t any other proposals for changing the budget the administration presented. To review the budget, click here.