“There are no immediate plans to use the property. We will lease it for farming,” said Kevin Mitchell, superintendent of Park County School District. No. 1.
The school board approved a plan to purchase the land from Winston and Beryl Churchill for $237,500, with the closing date slated for this fall.
A timeline for when a new school may be built depends on enrollment numbers and funding from the Wyoming School Facilities Department, Mitchell said.
“We’re at least five years out,” he said.
It’s also uncertain whether a new facility will replace Parkside Elementary School or become a fourth elementary school in Powell.
“We’ve had a lot of conversations, but nothing’s set in stone until we know what the need will be,” said Rob McCray, school board chairman.
Enrollment in Powell’s
elementary schools has steadily grown in recent years, prompting school officials to consider their options for future expansions.
The three elementary schools in town can hold 880 students, and this year’s elementary enrollment is at 869 students, according to the Wyoming Department of Education.
With Powell’s enrollment growth, the School Facilities Department paid for the school district to do an expansion study several years ago.
“They’re the ones that said, ‘You guys ought to be thinking about it so your next school isn’t two miles out of town,’” Mitchell said.
By investing in the land now, the price is better than it would be years down the road, McCray said.
The Seventh Street land also is a good location for a new elementary school, he said.
“You look at the map of where elementary schools are located, and they’re all on the south and west sides of town — there’s nothing on the northeast side of town,” McCray said.
There may be partnership opportunities between students at the high school and a future elementary school, he added.
Kids also would have recreational opportunities nearby.
“You’re close to Homesteader, you can walk to the pool, all the baseball fields,” Mitchell said. “There’s a lot of advantages to being there.”
A few years ago, school district leaders looked at purchasing agricultural land north of Clark Street, but they’re no longer interested in that property.
“This is the only piece we’re looking at,” McCray said.
The purchase will be funded through the School Facilities Department.
After the school board met in executive sessions to discuss the land purchase, Powell officials made an offer and counter-offer on the property earlier this year.
State school facilities leaders initially wanted the district to use proceeds from the sale of the old PHS auditorium/pool property, but later agreed to use state money following an April meeting with Powell officials.
“It’s all state money — every penny of it,” Mitchell said.
The plan is to close on the purchase by Oct. 1.
“There’s a lot of steps that have to happen in between, and we’ll get started on that process now,” McCray said.