Gov. Mark Gordon isn’t sure who is supposed to enforce a new law governing private school zoning and said he plans to consult the Wyoming attorney general about it.
Gordon allowed Senate File 49 — which exempts private schools from county zoning — to go into law without his signature March 15. Under the law, private schools, including the Jackson Hole Classical Academy, which pushed for the legislation, can bypass county zoning rules as long as they are certified by their engineer or architect of record “as being substantially similar” to siting and building standards required of public schools.
Despite passing the law, Gordon said, he believes it to be “flawed” and is “committed to working with county commissioners toward coming up with a better process that allows for more local control.” When asked whether the state would take on new oversight of private schools, the governor wasn’t sure.
“I have to say, not being an attorney, I think you raise a very, very good question, and one I will take up with our attorney general,” Gordon said at a press conference last week. “My sense is the state probably has some marginal responsibility there, and in terms of enforcement, and not wanting to get ahead of myself, let me defer that question for a bit until I really have a chance to look at what that means with regard to our attorney general’s opinion.”
Rachel Girt, the governor’s spokesperson, later clarified that Gordon doesn’t intend to ask the attorney general to issue a formal opinion on the matter, but rather ask for guidance. Only state elected officials, county prosecuting attorneys and directors of state agencies can request formal opinions from the attorney general, according to that office.
For public schools, the School Facilities Commission oversees construction. That commission will play no role in the development of private schools because Wyoming law dictates that its oversight is limited to public schools and approved charter schools, commission spokesman Travis Hoff said. Further, Hoff said, the new law doesn’t specify which guidelines are to be followed or who is responsible for enforcement.
“The legislation does not specify that any agency is to enforce this provision, only that it is the responsibility of the architect of record to certify that it meets the SFC guidelines,” Hoff said.
A spokesperson for the Classical Academy said last week that following the passage of the law, it will work to build a new school in South Park but is still working out the details of its plans and complying with the new law.