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Pathways Innovation Center

Pathways Innovation Center is seen in May 2018 in west Casper. Enrollment at the facility is set to jump by more than a quarter in the fall, Casper principals said Monday.

Three months after unveiling the latest plan to better fill the Pathways Innovation Center, Casper principals said Monday night that the building’s enrollment is set to exceed 350 students next year, marking a high point for a facility that’s had a stagnating population since it opened in fall 2016.

That total would mark a nearly 27 percent increase in enrollment at Pathways, and the final number might be higher than that, the principals told the Natrona County school board.

Right now, Kelly Walsh has about 240 students enrolled to take at least two courses at Pathways. Natrona County High is about halfway through counting its numbers and has more than 100 kids set to attend Pathways next year, spokeswoman Tanya Southerland said. The district is anticipating that number will rise. Roosevelt and Midwest students will further add to those numbers.

The NC students will attend in the morning, and KW kids in the afternoon.

The turnaround expected for next fall would be a significant jump from this year. In the fall, there were 276 students enrolled in total at the facility, which was conceived as a way for career-oriented students to pursue certifications and jobs while still in school. Even if the NC numbers don’t budge from their current mark of a little over 100, Pathways would still be well over its previous level.

Pathways’ purpose has shifted every year since 2016, thanks to its stagnant enrollment. The facility is capable of handling 500 students in the morning and another 500 in the afternoon. Kelly Walsh and NC each had just 77 students enrolled there this year — the bulk of the facility’s population came from Roosevelt High, which shares a campus with Pathways.

In January, NC’s Shannon Harris, KW’s Mike Britt and other high school leaders told the school board that Pathways would focus heavily on career and technical education courses next year, offering classes that are largely only available at the $25 million west Casper building. When it opened in 2016, Pathways was initially planned as an academy-based project. The facility’s shape has been remolded repeatedly in the years since as enrollment stalled at a quarter — or less — of capacity and the district struggled with financial challenges.

The numbers that Britt and Harris reported to the school board Monday would suggest this latest turnaround effort — which includes bringing KW and NC teachers, like NCTV instructor Lance Madzey, to Pathways — has legs.

Harris told the board that most of the classes are either full or close to it. She said she and Britt were talking about jointly funding another nursing instructor at Pathways, as that program has had particularly strong interest.

“Pretty much everything we offered, kids are taking,” Harris said.

Chris Tobin, the principal at Midwest, said her school was looking at sending eight to 10 students to Pathways. She said she was waiting to see where there were open seats for those kids.

Shawna Trujillo, the Roosevelt principal, echoed that sentiment. While she shares a campus with Pathways, the influx of NC and KW students means there will be fewer seats for her kids.

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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