Glenrock Students

Seventh and eighth-grade students listen to a suicide prevention presentation in May at Glenrock Middle School. The Converse County School District No. 2, which cut $850,000 from its budget last year, now faces a further shortfall of at least $500,000. 

Alan Rogers, Star-Tribune

Glenrock’s school district plans to institute layoffs and is considering a four-day week and renting out building space as it attempts to grapple with a deficit that’s already taken $850,000 from its budget.

Converse County School District No. 2 has so far been able to blunt some of the impact, partially by eliminating an administrative position and using donated beef to cut food service costs. With more reductions looming, it’s crowdsourcing solutions to the deficit.

But even with the proposed strategies, the district will still shed jobs, said Superintendent Coley Shadrick. He was unable to predict the number of employees who would receive pink slips, given that a number of factors — like the severity of the cuts — remain unclear.

“Even in the best case scenario, we will be forced to reduce staff,” he said Thursday.

That best scenario is a $500,000 cut, which represents a nearly 5 percent reduction. Last year, the district cut $850,000 out of its then-$11.5 million budget.

The worst-case scenario is a cut of $1 million, nearly 10 percent of the remaining budget. According to a recent Wyoming Department of Education report, the school district serves 572 students.

The district — along with the 47 others across the state — is waiting for the results of recalibration, the process through which a group of lawmakers and consultants study the state’s education system from top to bottom.

The review could mean a cheaper funding model. It could also mean a more expensive one, an unappealing possibility for some lawmakers who hoped the process would help cut costs.

Another factor is the legislative session. Lawmakers on the Joint Education Committee have already sponsored a bill that would cut more than $16 million from schools. Many lawmakers and educators have wondered if legislators will institute a cut that would roll out even larger reductions. Superintendent Steve Hopkins, of the Natrona County School District, has said he has only heard talk of more reductions, not less.

To consider options to deal with the looming cuts, the Glenrock school district brought in members of the public to form a cost-saving task force, which has met twice so far. The community as a whole has suggested roughly 450 ideas. Similar Google documents have been created in other districts to crowdsource cost-saving measures.

Among the options the district is seriously considering is trimming the school week to four days, an increasingly popular measure statewide that is also in place at Natrona County’s Midwest School.

Shadrick said cutting the school week would save about $35,000 a year on substitute teachers being brought in on Fridays. The district’s four schools could also be used for community events, which could bring in more money.

Still, other districts have warned that having students in school from Monday to Thursday is not a big driver of savings. That’s because much of a district’s budget is tied up in personnel costs, which a shortened week alone would not address for permanent staff. Some of the districts that have implemented four-day weeks have done so to cut down on the absences of students participating in activities.

Going to a four-day week also presents the problem of what parents who work would do with their kids on Fridays. The district is currently working with the Boys and Girls Club to address that problem, Shadrick said.

Converse 2’s budget is 85 percent personnel costs. With more cuts almost certain, the district won’t be able to avoid layoffs this time around, Shadrick said.

“We had made $850,000 worth of cuts last year,” he said. “Kind of trimmed the fat. ... To take it to the next level is really going to be a challenge for us.”

Another option the district and its cost-saving task force is considering is moving some students to other schools, such as transferring seventh- and eighth-graders to the high school. The move would open up space to bring in community events and groups, who would pay the district to utilize the space.

Elsewhere, the district received donated beef, which helped it cut down on food service costs.

Unlike Natrona County, the district in Converse County is not considering closing schools, Shadrick said.

“Our school system is definitely the heart of our community,” he said.

There’s no single solution to solve Converse 2’s budget situation. Shadrick said the effort would chip away at the deficit and would ultimately add up to what is needed. It will also help stave off the impact elsewhere. For instance while the four-day week may save only $35,000, that’s more than three quarters of a teacher’s salary.

“If I can save one teacher, it’s worth it,” Shadrick said.

Follow education reporter Seth Klamann on Twitter @SethKlamann

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Education and Health Reporter

Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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