All of Grant Elementary’s students may have chosen a new home, but faculty members at the soon-to-be closed school are still waiting for their new assignments.
Natrona County School District officials have been meeting with staff, but there’s no timeline for reassigning faculty. That’s because faculty placement follows enrollment and the district has not yet completed that process, said Michael Jennings, the district’s executive director of human services.
“Once the enrollment process has been completed, we’ll start identifying positions to assign faculty into,” he said.
But there are two wrinkles this year. First, in Cheyenne, the Legislature is grappling with an education funding shortfall. And here in Casper, officials must wait to see what effects legislative actions have on the district.
And second, enrollment in the district is declining. Superintendent Steve Hopkins said last week that a first look at the latest enrollment figures shows the district down about 200 elementary students and about 100 students overall. Jennings and Rick Skatula, the executive director for school improvement, said that the initial look at enrollment revealed that the district has lost a little less than 100 kindergarteners.
While school officials haven’t studied the exact cause of declining enrollment, Jennings and Skatula said the economy likely is playing a factor.
When asked if those two factors — cuts and dropping enrollment — could mean layoffs in the near future, Jennings said the district remains focused on avoiding that, which includes the Grant faculty. He said the district is looking for the “win-win”: the right placement of a teacher with the right building.
“But obviously we have to wait and see what our overall enrollment (is) before we can start moving Grant faculty or any faculty and staff into new positions,” he said. “Right now, we’re identifying the number of staff needed next year. Once we’ve identified the staff needed next year, we’ll go through the reassignment process with all teachers in the district, including the Grant teachers.”
Jennings added that there’s no update to the future of Grant Principal Shawna Smith and said he wasn’t sure how many Grant faculty had left the district.
Just over 50 percent of Grant’s student body will attend the new Journey Elementary next year, Skatula said, and some Grant faculty could end up there, though it was still too early to tell.
He added that all Grant students staying in the district had successfully gone through the enrollment process. Two Grant families who had not gone through the process as the deadline neared were “chased down” by school and district officials and successfully completed the process.
As for the Grant building itself, it has yet to be appraised and has not been placed on the market, officials said. The process of assessing and marketing it will not take place until after the year has finished and students and staff have closed out their Grant careers, officials said.
In December, the district’s board of trustees approved a proposal to close Grant Elementary, along with several other district properties, and eventually remove it from inventory. They cited dropping enrollment, an excess capacity of elementary school seats and significant repairs needed at Grant as the reasons for the closure.