The Wyoming School Facilities Commission approved funds for planning and design of 19 projects intended to aid school districts running out of classroom space.

A $10 million allocation by the 2013 state Legislature was divvied among 18 districts.

The list includes $1 million to fund the design of a new elementary school in the Natrona County School District.

NCSD officials now plan to explore where a new, yet-unnamed elementary school for 384 students may go, said Dennis Bay, executive director of business services for the district.

“Right now we have a wonderful problem in that we don’t have the capacity in all of our schools for all of the kids that are coming to the district,” Bay said. “So it’s a great problem to have. Now we need to develop, as soon as possible, a solution to that problem.”

Thursday’s action in Casper was a step toward that solution, Bay said. He said he believes it satisfies the intent of a recently released School Facilities Department study that found a capacity problem in Natrona County and outlined solutions during the next few years.

The district was recently forced to increase class sizes from 17 to 18 students per teacher for kindergarten through third grade because of lack of schools.

Natrona also was one of 22 districts to receive a waiver – mostly because of capacity issues – for a state statute capping classroom sizes to 16 students for every teacher in grades K-3.

Construction of a new Casper elementary school could begin in the summer of 2014 at the earliest if the Legislature approves construction funds that spring, Bay said.

He hopes the 2014 Legislature will also approve construction for a new Pineview Elementary School, which could allow groundbreaking to occur that year.

Construction is planned to begin this fall on a school to replace North Casper Elementary, Bay said.

But the new schools are years away, so NCSD officials plan to request five portable classrooms between Pineview, Park and North Casper elementary schools to add a little more space in the 2013-14 school year, Bay said.

Reach education reporter Elysia Conner at 307-266-0593 or elysia.conner@trib.com. Follow her on Twitter @ElysiaConner

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