Powell High School ag facility on track for October completion

Posted 7/14/20

Construction is underway on a new ag facility at Powell High School, which will expand hands-on learning opportunities for students.

The $767,000 facility is on track for an October …

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Powell High School ag facility on track for October completion

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Construction is underway on a new ag facility at Powell High School, which will expand hands-on learning opportunities for students.

The $767,000 facility is on track for an October completion.

Located north of the high school, the new facility will be “an extension of the classroom so that the students can get real life experience when working with plants and animals,” said Bryce Meyer, who teaches agriculture at PHS and serves as the adviser for the Powell-Shoshone FFA Chapter.

“We are most looking forward to having our own space to apply what we learn in the classroom,” Meyer said.

The facility will feature a lab area, arena and meeting room, as well as both permanent and temporary pens for livestock.

It was proposed by the high school ag department and approved by the board as a place where students will be able to house livestock and do lab work with animals. “It’s not a day-to-day classroom facility,” said Rob McCray, support services coordinator for the district.

Envisioned as an “ag science and technology center,” Meyer said the new facility will significantly change how he teaches.

“I currently work to use project-based lessons to the best of my ability, but you can only do so much in a classroom,” he said.

He hopes to integrate more opportunities for students to apply their knowledge through projects and activities, as well as clinics and workshops with the community.

“We are really excited for what the future holds for the Powell ag and FFA program having access to this new facility,” Meyer said.

Some students will be able to raise animals — such as hogs, goats and sheep — in the new center. Priority will be given to students who don’t have the facilities at home to raise their own livestock, Meyer said, such as those who live in town.

Beyond FFA and ag classes, there’s also been a lot of interest from special education programs to help with career training and hands-on learning.

“As a whole, what is happening in this facility will result in career exposure, helping students make decisions about future careers,” Meyer said.

Superintendent Jay Curtis said the new ag facility will give Powell kids opportunities that “symbolize what Powell is all about.”

“We’re an ag community,” he said. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t have a facility that gives students opportunities in that area.”

Other schools across the state — including Cody and Meeteetse — have similar buildings dedicated to teaching kids about agriculture.

PHS ag students proposed the idea of an agricultural facility to the Powell school board in 2017, and the board moved forward with the project in 2018. School leaders, students and community members have stepped up over the years to make the idea a reality.

“The community has played a significant part in the development of the facility,” Meyer said.

Gary Mills at First Bank of Wyoming worked with the school district to get 2 acres of land donated for the facility, and “we really appreciate his efforts,” Meyer said.

The land swap included First Bank of Wyoming, Delfino and Celedina Juarez and the school district.

Greg Borcher, chairman of the Powell school board who also works at First Bank of Wyoming, thanked all of those involved.

Borcher said that without Mills’s efforts, “the ag facility project may have never gotten off the ground,” and he thanked the Juarez family “for their willingness to trade land with the bank to make this project obtainable.”

The FFA Parent Support Group “also needs a big thank you,” Borcher said. The parent group donated $40,000 to the district for the construction of the building and pledged another $35,000 to help supply the facility with pens, in-kind work and other necessary tools for the facility. The FFA Parent Support Group also gave a lot of input in the design, Meyer said.

“The community of Powell never ceases to amaze me at the generosity of businesses and individuals when a project is put before them,” Borcher said.

The effort also has had “great support” from the Park County School District No. 1 administration and board, Meyer said.

The school district initially went out to bid on the facility last year, and received one bid for  $937,353, which exceeded the district’s estimates. The school board voted in June 2019 to reject the bid and rework the project.

The district worked with Point Architects to modify plans for the facility to help bring down the cost. For example, the initial bid was for a steel frame structure, and the district opted for a wood frame instead. The earlier design also included a mezzanine above the classroom for a mechanical room and storage, which was eliminated.

“We tried to take out as much of the expensive stuff as we could,” McCray said.

Instead of custom design features, the building will have standard square or rectangular windows and square corners.

“Initially, cosmetically it might have been a little bit more appealing,” McCray said. “We tried to get rid of costly items that didn’t affect the usability of the facility.”

He said the goal is for it to be a nice facility, and its purpose as an educational space remains the same.

In the redesign, the square footage of the building stayed roughly the same at 80 feet by 81 feet.

The district went out to bid again this spring, with a timeline that gave contractors more time to complete the work.

Two bids were received in April. The school board unanimously approved awarding the contract to the low-bidder, Diamond Point Construction of Buffalo, which submitted a $767,000 proposal. The second bid was for $837,646 from Heart Mountain Construction.

McCray said last week that construction is going well. All the posts are in, as is the infrastructure for water, gas, electricity and internet to the site. Work is also progressing on an access road.

Originally, access was going to be from the south — along the west edge of the high school on district-owned property — but “there was an irrigation line that was not where anybody thought it was,” McCray said. “As shallow as it was, there was no way we could build the access that was required for the city,” he said.

The access road will now be north of Panther Stadium, so people will come in on the north side of the football field.

Construction is slated to be completed in October and ag students will begin using the facility once it’s ready.

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