In an effort to save money and time, all new Wyoming elementary schools must now be built using one of five to seven prototypical designs, the Wyoming School Facilities Commission has decided.
“The main issue is our costs are higher than probably anyone else in the U.S.,” said James “Bubba” Shivler, the director of the commission, which adopted the policy last month.
While the state is experiencing an economic surge thanks to an oil and natural-gas boom, Wyoming’s low population density and a state law giving preference to Wyoming builders mean few contractors are available to build schools, Mr. Shivler said.
“We’re just not getting bids,” he said, “and when we do, they’re extremely high.”
The prototype system applies only to elementary schools because their layouts tend to be simpler and they have less specific facility needs than secondary schools do.
In addition to saving time in the design process—which Mr. Shivler estimates could be up to a year shorter under the prototype system—district leaders will have more opportunities to examine existing prototype schools.
Prototype schools, also known as stock plans, are used in some districts with varying degrees of success, but have never been effectively implemented on a statewide level, according to the National Clearinghouse on Education Facilities.
Stock plans have been abandoned in North Carolina and New York City, and in 2004 a task force in Arkansas recommended against using such a system because the state’s many rural schools have a diverse range of facility needs.
However, a prototype system has served the 292,000-student Clark County, Nev., school district well, according to the facilities clearinghouse. And the Miami-Dade County schools in Florida are implementing a stock plan for the 2007-08 school year.
Even so, critics of such plans say that they don’t allow enough flexibility to meet the needs of individual schools, and that the money saved in planning doesn’t outweigh the cost of adapting a generic school to the specific conditions of the location.
A version of this article appeared in the December 06, 2006 edition of Education Week