Wait-and-see approach for small schools on recalibration

Oct 10, 2017 By Katie Roenigk and Alejandra Silva, Staff writers

Officials at some small school districts in Fremont County are waiting to see what state legislators decide to do about school funding before weighing in on the recalibration issue.

The legislature's Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration has spent this year reviewing the funding model for Wyoming public schools, with a final report due before the next legislative session in February.

Until the report is complete, Fremont County School District 24 superintendent Brad Thoren in Shoshoni said he's not spending much time worrying about recalibration.

"There's so much posturing and positioning," he said. "I'm following it, but I'm not getting too worked up until things get further down the line."


In Dubois, principal Brandon Farris had a similar opinion.

"We're waiting and seeing what it's going to do," he said.

He simply hopes that legislators working on the funding model keep smaller school districts like his in mind.

"Our number count is low, (and) we don't really foresee a big jump in that," he said. "But it still costs us a lot of money (to operate).

"We want our students to have all the things the students in Lander and Riverton do, the same opportunities. That's just fair."

Wind River

Fremont County School District 6 superintendent Diana Clapp in Pavillion said she has been able to provide some input, or "perspective," to the recalibration group regarding the needs of smaller districts, and she plans to attend future meetings to continue giving feedback as the process unfolds.

In particular, Clapp said she has spoken with the group about the inequity of the current travel reimbursement model, which is based on enrollment and not distance.

"When we have 400-some students over 1,300 square miles ... we put a large amount of mileage on those buses," she said.

She compared the situation to one in a more urban area, where there may be higher enrollment, but the distances students travel to school are much shorter.

"They don't go near as far and don't have near the cost involved," she said. "So there's just an economy of scale there that really impacts us, because we are geographically large but enrollment (is) small."

Clapp believes the recalibration process is being undertaken wisely this year, with third-party consultants coming in to assess the situation holistically.

"It's good to bring in some expertise to look at all aspects of the model ... rather than people coming up and randomly picking and choosing things out of the model to change," she said. "It needs to be more systematic than that, and I think that's what we're seeing being attempted by the legislature - a systematic review.

"Given our economic situation I think that needs to happen. They're doing what they need to do."

-Staff writer Daniel Bendtsen contributed to this report