The Jackson Hole Classical Academy is moving forward with a plan to transfer development rights from conserved parcels to build a new K-12 school in South Park.
The private, classical liberal arts school currently houses a K-9 program serving about 98 students at a leased facility at South Park Loop and High School roads.
Head of School Polly Friess said the facility is approaching the 135-student capacity and is out of classrooms. The Classical Academy has been searching for a site of its own for seven years, Friess said, and is excited to find affordable land with proper zoning.
“We just need a school. We’re not developers,” Friess said. “But the demand for our program has doubled in size in four years, so it is an ... option that is needed in this valley along with all the other ones. We would like to be a part of the educational excellence in the valley.”
Up to 245 students could be accommodated by the new design.
Architect Brad Boyer’s renderings show a multiple-building facility “based on a ranch design” that attempts to break up rooflines, cluster development near existing agricultural buildings and screen development from the road.
“It’s going to look like a cluster,” Boyer said.
The main entrance is planned for the intersection of the 3 Creek neighborhood. Plans also show field space that would be used for the school, as well as community club sports and employee housing units for school faculty.
Also included in the architectural plans is the relocation and rehabilitation of a historic single-room schoolhouse constructed in 1895, to be moved into the Classical Academy complex.
The school plans to use a county development tool allowing for the transfer of density between noncontiguous parcels. Intended to incentivize conservation of the county’s most valuable open space, the tool awards an applicant bonus floor area in exchange for permanent conservation of 90 percent of the total acreage of a site.
According to the proposal, an entity related to the school, Owl Happenings LLC, would buy a 40-acre parcel off South Park Loop from the Lucas family.
Per the land regulations, the 40-acre school site has only enough by-right square footage available for development of a few classrooms. The extra density the school needs would be transferred from northern properties off Spring Gulch Road.
Last summer, the original plan was to transfer density from 133 acres of conserved land near the National Elk Refuge. The Classical Academy’s plan has since shifted. Now the school is proposing to transfer development rights from different land placed under easement: 121 acres at Red Tail Butte off Spring Gulch Road and 62 acres surrounding the South Park school site.
It’s not finalized, but consultants are in talks about conserving an additional 35 to 105 acres at the Bar BC Ranch to preserve more important habitat, provide more open space and allow a little more flexibility with square footage, according to Y2 Consultants’ Scott Pierson, who is working on the project.
Pierson said the northern site has higher wildlife value than the school site because it serves as winter range for mule deer and other species. That will be confirmed through an ongoing environmental analysis and review process.
Overall, the planned developed area would be a buildout of 116,159 square feet on 20 acres at South Park. With a total of about 184 acres conserved, 90 percent of the total acreage involved would be under permanent conservation easement. About 25 percent of the South Park acreage will be developed.
The proposal still must undergo an environmental analysis and county review of the conditional use permit.