The half-century-old Park Elementary School near downtown is a victim of its own success and the Natrona County School District will spend nearly $5 million to expand and renovate it.

The district's board of trustees on Monday voted for a construction project that will add classrooms and enhance security among other improvements, and be finished in 2022.

"It's a prudent expenditure of funds," said trustee Clark Jensen, who is on the board's infrastructure planning committee.

Jensen compared the project to what happened at Dean Morgan Junior High School earlier in the decade. Instead of tearing it down and starting over, the district spent $16 million to totally renovate an otherwise solid building and improve the site.

The construction will not require moving students to other schools, he said.

The district will pay for it with capital construction and major maintenance funds, Jensen said.

Park Elementary was built in 1956 and has been in high demand in part because it's a school of choice for parents and for its Spanish dual-language program, according to the recommendation by the board's infrastructure planning committee.

The school also has added a dual language immersion section to each grade level each year.

As a result, Park is exceeding its capacity by 110% on the district's recommended capacity as determined by class size.

Likewise, it is exceeding the state's Schools Facilities Division recommended capacity by 140%.

Walt Wilcox, associate superintendent for curriculum and instruction, said Park's enrollment has stayed consistent with about 340 to 350 students, and it was that way before the district decided to close four schools in October 2017.

These are some of the Park Elementary's educational and safety needs:

  • It has limited space to provide certain services; a hallway and the stage in the gym are used for those services.
  • Tutoring occurs in a custodial closet.
  • There is no space available for the counselor or counseling services.
  • The part-time principal and the counselor share the same space on opposite days.
  • To move classes from the main building to the library, students must walk through the gym.
  • The main entrance of the building is not directly visible to office staff. People can enter the building and move around freely once they are buzzed in.

The project includes the following:

  • Add four classrooms, each at least 950 square feet. Two temporary classrooms will be removed.
  • Renovate an existing kindergarten classroom to serve as an administrative space.
  • Renovate the administrative space for instructional and service provider space.
  • Build an external corridor to connect the main building to the east side of building so students won't need to walk through the gym.
  • Do site work including grading, fencing, asphalt, striping, and landscaping.
  • Possibly vacate Eighth Street between David and Center streets. That would require action by the Casper City Council.

The project will match as closely as possible the existing school, and integrate all architectural, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and technology components according to the district's design guidelines.

Specifically, the renovations include:

  • Design and replace the entire roof.
  • Paint interior surfaces.
  • Replace moveable partitions walls.
  • Refinish gym and stage floors.
  • Replace carpet, ceiling tiles, interior doors, exterior doors and door frames, windows, damaged white boards and tack boards.
  • Add security cameras.
  • Update the fire protection system.
  • Repair certain exterior walls and gutters.
  • Install air conditioning.
  • Replace plumbing fixtures.
  • Replace electrical outlets and switches, and install LED lighting.

The cost of new construction will be $2,106,000 -- the new classrooms will cost $1,251,000 -- and the repairs will cost $2,750,000, bringing the total project to $4,856,000.

The design phase will begin in May, classroom construction will begin in October, and the last phase will end in August 2022.