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Students line up for their bus ride home in 2017 at the Natrona County School District bus hub in central Casper. The district is considering eliminating the need for parents to pay for school supplies.

Starting next year, the Natrona County School District will likely begin purchasing school supplies for its students, the district announced Monday.

“The Natrona County School District Board of Trustees is committed to ensuring all students in Natrona County have the resources and material available to them to come to school ready to learn,” the district wrote in a press release.

A board committee recommended the program, and the full board will vote on the proposal — as well as the full budget for the coming fiscal year — in July. In order to no longer require or ask parents “to purchase school supplies or pay classroom/school fees,” the district would give each school $45 per student to buy the supplies. In Natrona County, where the fall enrollment will likely hover around 13,000 students, that’s an increase of well over $550,000.

The district here uses a decentralized budgeting process, meaning that each school is generally given a budget and the administrators of that school are tasked with using those resources to best serve their school.

It’s unclear if any other district in the state has a similar program of paying for its students’ school supplies. The Wyoming Department of Education doesn’t track whether districts pay for their students’ school supplies.

In the same Monday afternoon release, the district announced the board committee was also recommending that the district no longer charge people who attend high school athletic or activity events. The district would instead bump Kelly Walsh and Natrona County High’s budgets by $75,000 per year.

In all, the school supply program and the free admission change would amount to an increase of $738,690 in funding to the district’s schools. District spokeswoman Tanya Southerland did not immediately return a request for comment about the announcements.

The announcements are a further sign that the economic fortunes of the district are beginning to tilt in the right direction. A presentation given to board and district officials Monday shows that the district is anticipating an increase in its average daily membership for next year. Average daily membership, or ADM, is a calculation of attendance used by the state to determine a school district’s funding. If the district does see a rebound in ADM next year, it would be the first growth since the bust.

Natrona County, along with other districts across the state, will also see a bump in funding next year from the Wyoming Legislature’s decision to fund an external cost adjustment — essentially a way for the state to address the cost of inflation. The ECA, as its typically called by educators and legislators, had previously languished for years.

In all, the external cost adjustment will bring $2.26 million to the district, according to the budget presentation.

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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