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September 11, 2008 3:48 am

Gym's future fades

Written by Tribune Staff

A report to the school board left the future of the old Powell High School gymnasium looking dimmer Tuesday night.

Following a report from Superintendent Kevin Mitchell on a meeting with the Wyoming School Facilities Commission and comments by Powell Middle School principal Jason Sleep, the District No. 1 board appeared ready to designate the site of the old gym as the location of a new middle school. Since the item was not on the agenda as a business item, however, Mitchell told the board they would have to wait until the October meeting to act on the issue.

A group headed by Ric Rodriguez has asked that the district delay the decision for eight months to a year while efforts to find an alternative that would preserve the gym as a community recreation center are explored. At a meeting of the board and the Powell City Council last month Rodriguez offered two alternatives for a site for the new school, including one that would relocate the school to city-owned land across the street from the new high school and one that would use the current site but would require closing Third St.

At Tuesday's meeting, however, Mitchell indicated that the board should make a decision by January to avoid a delay in building a new middle school. Referring to a capital facilities tax proposed by Rodriguez as a major part of funding for preserving the gym, Mitchell noted that such a tax would not be on a ballot until Nov. 2010, and by that time, projections indicate the middle school will face over-crowding.

Mitchell told the board, after his meeting with Todd Wilder of the Facilities Commission and CTA architects, that he believes the district should designate a site by January.

Sleep spoke in favor of building the new school at the present site, citing the advantages to the school's curriculum and activities of being close to downtown.

Sleep said safety and security make the site preferable, along with enabling students to walk or bike to school.

He added that using the site preserves the athletic fields and would allow PMS to develop its own identity.

Sleep reminded the board that projected enrollment indicates that the current middle school will be overcrowded in 3-5 years, so delaying a decision is not practical. He urged the board to approve the proposed site.

Mitchell said the facilities commission is aware of the situation Powell is in regarding a new middle school and the old high school, and said Wilder believes the new middle school will be high on the priority list for school construction if the district designates a site.

“Basically, the board has to make a site decision by January,” Mitchell said.

Following Mitchell's report, board member LeAnne Kindred said the district's main concern should be the needs of the kids.

“There's a lot of ifs about the gym,” Kindred said. “If they don't work out, we're in a bind. We need to decide this site now.”