Green River Star -

By David Martin
Editor 

Jackson school will close

 

November 15, 2017



Jackson Elementary School will close.

Members of the Sweetwater County School District No. 2 Board of Trustees voted 6-1 in favor of the elementary school’s closure Tuesday night, after additional data and parents’ opinions were presented to them.

Board member Steve Core was the only vote against the closure, saying he thinks a school closure should be the last option, not the first. Core thinks the district could tap into its $7 million in revenues to offer an early retirement program, which would result in savings when positions are eliminated. The district will have to achieve $1.46 million in cost reductions to balance its upcoming budget, though Superintendent Donna-Little Kaumo fears the district will have to make deeper cuts after the Wyoming Legislature meets for its budget session in 2018.

While discussing the background information related to her recommendation to close Jackson, Little-Kaumo said the $1.46 million amount comes from reduced student enrollment in the elementary schools, as well as state-mandated reductions in funding for instructional facilitators and a change in how court ordered student placements are funded. As of October, the district has lost 98 students from the same period last year, which will result in a $1.1 million reduction in funding. The instructional facilitator funding was reduced as part of a two-year reduction in funding approved by the legislature earlier this year, and added with the change in court ordered placement funding, amounts to another $330,060.92 in reductions.

The reason why Jackson was suggested to close is due to the school having the lowest enrollment of the elementary schools and the costs associated with upgrading and repairing the building, funds which have not been made available to the district from the Wyoming School Facilities Commission, which dictates where funding for school construction and repairs goes. The building hasn’t been recognized by the commission as needing repairs, though issues exist according to Jackson PTO Treasurer Irish Kreis. Kreis said custodians are forced to place buckets throughout the school’s cafeteria during storms because of water leaks, claiming multiple buckets are needed to keep the floors clear. She also said an entire hallway was once closed because of the leaking roof. Kreis also mentioned other safety concerns, including difficulties properly draining water around the building. Core, saying he wasn’t aware of the maintenance issues at the building said the school has always had problems. The district estimates it would need $770,000 to update and upgrade the building.

Little-Kaumo said she received a number of ideas from parents seeking alternate methods of saving the money. Some of those ideas included closing Expedition Academy, switching the school schedule to a four-day school week.

Cost savings for those alternatives would not add up to the amount the district will need to cut.

Another idea, involving the redrawing of school boundaries, will be voted on during the December school board meeting. Two options, one involving the Jackson boundaries to be rededicated to MIS and the other involving the boundaries redistributed to Harrison Elementary School will be presented to the school board. The district also plans public comment periods for these proposals.

Parents speaking to the board suggested postponing the vote, claiming information presented was not available to them prior to the start of the meeting.

Board member Corina Tynsky said the board had a week to review the information and agreed with comments made by board member John Malone, saying a month would not make a difference in the building’s condition.

She made the motion to close the school, with Malone seconding it. The board then voted.

“It’s not easy. This is hard, this is really hard,” board member Ann Rudoff said.

 

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