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December 15, 2011 9:05 am

EDITORIAL: New Westside another step forward for Powell schools

Written by Don Amend

Another school construction project is coming to an end in Powell this week with the completion of the new Westside Elementary School.

The district marked the completion with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, and the task of moving Westside’s operations from the old Southside school into the new facility has begun. Westside students, the real owners of the building, will be introduced to their new school next week and will mark the occasion with their own ribbon-cutting. People passing the school during the Christmas break are likely to see cars in the parking lot as faculty members prepare their classrooms for the beginning of the school.

School construction has been booming across Wyoming for the past eight years, triggered by a Wyoming Supreme Court decision that made the state responsible for providing adequate school facilites in all Wyoming districts, and it has been particularly noticeable in the Big Horn Basin. Students in Big Horn County School District No. 1 are attending new schools in Cowley; Greybull and Thermopolis have new schools, and schools in Burlington, Cody and Meeteetse have been built or completely renovated.

The task is not finished. Construction of an addition to Powell Middle School is under way, and future renovation or replacement of school buildings is part of the future plans for schools in Basin.

The need for all of these new schools has been controversial, as all public spending projects tend to be. Many wonder why schools that have served for many years require replacement.

The reasons are varied, and they include changing building codes, growing or diminishing enrollment and evolving educational practices. Older buildings may be unsafe, inefficient or not adaptable to the needs of today’s education, and upgrading them may be so expensive that building a new facility is more cost effective than renovating an old one.

A nice building doesn’t guarantee a good education for the students who attend school there, of course. Faculty, staff, and administrators, along with the kids and their parents are the ones who make learning happen.

But learning takes place in a physical environment, and a building that is organized to enhance learning activities and is properly heated and lighted does make a difference. Moreover, a facility that students and the community can take pride in plays an important role in helping students build a positive perception of their school and the education they are receiving. That positive perception, or school spirit, also is a factor in helping students prepare for the world in which they will live.

The state of Wyoming deserves credit for having done its part to provide appropriate school facilities to students in Powell, and the teachers, administrators, staff members and parents who use those facilities can be commended for putting those facilities to use in providing excellent educational opportunity for the community’s young people.

1 Comment

  • Comment Link December 16, 2011 8:14 am posted by TN

    Yep,build it and they will come.And the prices keep going up.

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