School District May Close Grant Elementary Next Year
The Natrona County School District could close Grant Elementary School at the end of the academic year because of state funding reductions during the economic downturn, district executives said Thursday.
The decision to close Grant, 1536 S. Oakcrest, came as the result of a study by a committee of facility conditions this fall, said Mike Jennings, executive director of human resources.
It wasn't an easy decision, Jennings said.
"It's difficult for the school community, it's difficult for our community," he said. "But being prudent stewards of the resources that we receive from the community and state, we realize the economic downturn has had significant impact."
Enrollment trends were significant, Jennings said.
In the past seven years, the district was growing by 138 elementary students a year to a total of more than 13,000 students. But two years ago, that trend reversed, and the district has lost 229 elementary students.
Grant Elementary is at 80 percent capacity, and its enrollment has declined over the past three years.
Even with the shedding of Grant, the district still will have 312 vacant seats in its other schools, Jennings said.
Grant has 172 students from kindergarten through fifth grade and 33 staff, said Rick Skatula, executive director of school improvement. However, the students in fifth grade will not be affected because they will be moving to middle schools next fall, he said.
The study, Skatula said, scored eight factors in reviewing all buildings in the district to reach its recommendation: the conditions of the buildings, major maintenance and repair needs, enrollment trends over the past three years, number of available seats per site, number of staff per site, site constraints such as the availability of parking, geographical location such as the proximity of elementary schools to each other, and special programming in any of the schools.
"We never looked at nor considered student academic performance in any school, and we never looked at socio-economic status in any school," Skatula said. "Those were not factors we considered."
Grant Elementary had the lowest score because of its structural and maintenance needs, said Dennis Bay, executive director of business services.
Jennings, Skatula and Bay could not identify how much the district will save by closing Grant.
However, repairing Grant's roof alone would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, Jennings said.
Besides closing Grant, the Facility Condition and Capacity Study recommended disposing and removing inventory at North Casper Elementary, Fairgrounds Center, and the old Roosevelt High School by July 1, 2017.
Likewise, the inventory in Mills Elementary School will be removed by Sept. 1.
Bay said the district will try to sell its empty buildings.
The recommendation to close Grant Elementary, as well as the other recommendations, will require approval by the district's board of trustees.
The district wants to work with the staff, students and parents to help with the transitions. School and district personnel will meet with parents at Grant Elementary at 6:30 p.m. Monday.