Teton County School District No. 1 administrators say they’re working out the new-building kinks in Munger Mountain Elementary School.
As the school year began, teachers, parents and some observant students became aware of intermittent problems with things like internet, electricity and water.
Assistant Superintendent of Operations Jeff Daugherty has explanations for all the issues and said he and staff are working to get everything addressed as quickly as possible.
“These are problems that are common to new buildings,” he said. “You don’t know until you run them. These are minor problems.”
Munger Mountain Elementary School is located south of town in the Hog Island area. At 77,000 square feet, it serves 475 students in kindergarten through fifth grade and is the first dual immersion school in the district and the state.
Construction began in April 2017 and finished in the nick of time for the first day of school, with small punch-list items still being tidied up this month. Construction cost about $26.7 million and came in roughly $1.5 million under budget with no change orders. That was a win for the school board and the school district as they consider building another school to address overcrowding at the secondary level. The savings mostly came in the furniture, fixtures and equipment category.
The most pressing problem at Munger appears to be the bandwidth. It isn’t working well enough to support all building operations and educational needs.
“We have our techs and the state’s techs working on that,” Daugherty said. “We don’t have an answer for that yet. What we know is that we don’t have the same amount of bandwidth going into the school that our town schools have. But we have enough.”
Daugherty said the district’s IT staff has been working “weekends and very long hours to get this resolved.”
“Education has changed since I went to school,” he said. “The internet is such an integral part of not just operating the building, but that’s how kids are learning today. That’s how we perform our testing. It’s a critical component for us to get resolved.”
Daugherty said the bandwidth was determined by the state’s School Facilities Commission, not the district, and has nothing to do with the rural site location.
The problem also isn’t with wiring, Daugherty said.
“All the wiring in the school is good, so that checks out,” he said. “Our switches check out in the school, and our wireless system, that checks out, too.”
The district is working with CenturyLink to “document and determine the location of the intermittent problem.” Staffers are taking different services offline to see how it affects the internet and using elimination tactics to narrow down the source of the problem.
“The problem is either an intermittent problem with CenturyLink or with the way we’ve got our switches configured within the building,” Daugherty said. “So they just have to go piece by piece to rule problems out.”
The state is aware of the problems.
“I’ve spoken with Administrator Shelby Carlson and she’s communicating the concern to Director Del McOmie,” Daugherty said. “If we can’t resolve it here quickly then they’ll get involved and we’ll start trying to figure out other solutions.”
Power outages, he said, are due to construction on the neighboring highway. Two occurred last week, ranging from a few minutes to a couple of hours.
“WYDOT [Wyoming Department of Transportation] hit the power line a couple of times on the road,” he said.
He said that could happen again any time until “they’re done building the highway,” but he has let them know the impact on the school.
“They know about it. We have meetings with them every Thursday,” Daugherty said. “They don’t do it on purpose. They’re absolutely on it, and Lower Valley Energy does a great job mobilizing quickly.”
The power outages also affect WYDOT’s building south of town near the school.
A problem with water turning off was “just one day,” Daugherty said. It was fixed by replacing a faulty part and is “fine.”
Daugherty said the lack of water — leading to low pressure in the toilets, for example — “was the first hour or two of the day and then we got it fixed.
“When the power goes out, the well is operated by an electric pump,” he said. “So when the power goes out the well goes out.
“So what I’m doing is I’ve directed them to wire the well to our emergency generator. So that should resolve that.”