Natrona County School District Eyes More School Closures; Lower Enrollment To Blame
The Natrona County School District may need to close at least one school to close the gap between the number of seats and the declining number of students, according to a news release Wednesday.
"In light of a three year trend of decreasing elementary enrollment and excess capacity of elementary seats across the district and in efforts to continue be sensitive to budget constraints, facility maintenance, and excess capacity, there is a need to right size District facilities," according to the news release.
The enrollment count, which becomes official on the 10th day of the academic year, is 12,869 students. That's higher than 12,722 in the 2012-2013 academic year, but down from the peak enrollment of 13,106 in 2014-2015.
Meanwhile, the district has been in a construction boom because the state funded major projects five years ago, according to the news release. No new school funding has been approved for the past three years.
"Newer elementary school construction projects seen at Bar Nunn, Lincoln, and Journey schools were approved by the state during a period of enrollment increase and before the current economic downturn."
As a result, the district has an excess capacity of 970 seats. The figures are based on an 18:1 student-teacher ratio in kindergarten through third grade and 26:1 in the fourth and fifth grades.
Last year, the district formed a facility condition and capacity study committee to review schools and other facilities with an eye to curbing costs as funding declines.
In November 2016, the committee recommended and the district trustees approved the closure of Grant Elementary, 1536 S. Oakcrest, in part because of declining enrollment and in part because of the necessary repairs amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In January, district trustees approved the sale of the former Roosevelt school in north Casper, which is being renovated by the Casper Housing Authority as a temporary housing facility for veterans.
Likewise, trustees approved the sale of the former Fairgrounds Center, which was purchased by the Alliance Church.
The committee also recommended and disposing and removing inventory at North Casper Elementary School, Fairgrounds Center, Roosevelt High School and Mills Elementary School.