GREEN RIVER — Jackson Elementary School in Green River may have to close after this academic year, a possible victim of financial difficulties in Sweetwater School District No. 2, if the state legislature does not get serious about funding education. That assessment came from SSD No. 2 Superintendent Donna Little-Kaumo at Tuesday evening’s District Board of Trustees meeting.
A decision on the possible closure of Jackson Elementary would have to be made at the board’s November meeting, Little-Kaumo said, because if the school does close it would mean some boundary changes within the district.
No Decision Without Input
No such decision will be made without getting input from parents and other stakeholders. Little-Kaumo informed the board and the meeting audience that she will be planning two meetings with parents and other interested parties to discuss the possible closure of Jackson Elementary.
In addition, Little-Kaumo emphasized the need for parents to let their state legislators know that they want education within Wyoming to be properly funded, as per the state constitution.
Declining Student Population & Health Insurance Changes
Between reduced funding because of a declining student population within the district, and possible mandated changes to employee health insurance, and a potential increase in class sizes, among other factors, Little-Kaumo estimated that SSD No. 2 could face a reduction of between $4.5 million-$4.9 million in upcoming funding.
The district has 98 fewer students this academic year, 2,605 pupils in 2017 compared with 2,703 pupils in 2016, Little-Kaumo said.
Where would Jackson students go?
Little-Kaumo acknowledged the difficulty that closure of Jackson Elementary may create for parents and students. “Closing a school is a personal and emotional decision for the community involved,” Little-Kaumo said.
If that were to happen, the superintendent suggested that one possible outcome would be to move the affected students to Monroe, albeit respecting the emotions involved for the Jackson community.
“We would put our arms around them and move them to Monroe (Intermediate School),” she said, adding, “This would provide a core working team to start the K-5 building.”
Jackson Elementary’s student population is down to only 120 students after transfers and ELL numbers are removed.
Little-Kaumo said, with the building needing an upgrade but with no money coming from the state legislature anytime in the near future for such a project.
Not Doing Right By Wyoming Students
Little-Kaumo again returned to her theme that the state legislature is not doing right by Wyoming students. “It is time for parents to become proactive with the legislature,” she emphasized.
Board members reacted cautiously but understandingly to Little-Kaumo’s comments. One trustee, Corina Tynsky, said she has a child at Jackson Elementary and that she lives in the Jackson Elementary neighborhood.
Tynsky came close to tears as she asked parents, teachers, students and other stakeholders to contact their state legislators and demand more funding for education. She also requested that if parents or teachers have any ideas regarding how to handle the Jackson Elementary situation or the district’s overall financial situation that they please contact the school board or Superintendent Little-Kaumo and present those ideas.
A Hypocritical State Legislature
Trustee John Malone accused state legislators of being hypocrites.
It is costing the state of Wyoming a quarter of a billion dollars to renovate the state Capitol building in Cheyenne, Malone said, and when then state legislature returns to their newly renovated Capitol building, students from schools throughout Wyoming will be visiting the state Capitol and meeting with their state legislators.
“Those legislators will tell those students how important education is, while at the same time gutting funding for education. That’s being hypocritical,” said Malone.
One trustee, Steve Core, said he could understand the need to close Jackson Elementary, given the building’s condition.
“Washington School needs to stay,” Core declared. “Jackson School is our newest school but it’s in bad shape…It had a weird design to begin with.”
For still another time, Little-Kaumo asked that parents speak to their state legislators and remind them about their responsibilities to properly fund schools. “The state constitution requires that kids get a quality education,” she said.