SCSD1 class sizes expected to increase slightly

RANCHESTER — Class sizes at Sheridan County School District 1 will go up for the 2014-2015 school year as the district struggles with state funding allocations.

Though the overall budget is slightly up from last year, enrollment also continues to rise.

For four years the district has not received the accumulative external cost adjustment from the state. The adjustment is an annual accounting for the average cost of living increase which brings all school districts’ baseline budgets up according to the cost of living index determined by consultants.

“Without that adjustment we are unable to account for that increased cost of living in terms of salaries and in terms of our utilities and those types of things,” SCSD1 Superintendent Marty Kobza said. “Programmatically we need to make sure we are where we need to be for the kids without having to redistribute funds for supplies and such, so it has made for a difficult situation.”

The growth in the general fund was a result of increased enrollment and therefore increased per student contributions from the state, bringing the overall budget to $14,498,904, up from $14,324,336 last year. The budget is down, though, from $15,506,637 in 2012.

This year’s increase was not significant enough to add staff to offset the additional students, so classroom student-to-teacher ratios will be higher this year.

In fact, overall staffing has reduced across the district by 23 positions over the last four years and the 2013-2014 school year was the first time the district ever exceeded recommended ratios in their kindergarten classrooms.

“For our district, our patrons, our parents and we expect that our class sizes will be small and that is now a challenge for us,” Kobza said. “We continue to maintain small class sizes and better ratios than the state averages and that is a priority, but at the same time we are really being pushed by not getting that adjustment.”

There were some highlights of the budget, which was approved at Wednesday night’s meeting of the SCSD1 Board of Trustess, as the slight increase in funds ensured current programming could be maintained and allowed for small raises for some employees to keep up with cost of living increases.

Additionally, the district applied for and received an Innovative Schools Grant from the Wyoming Department of Education in the amount of $53,000 to add additional wireless Internet points in their buildings and add a learning management system called Canvas aimed at helping the district individualize the learning process for students.

In other business:

• School handbooks and salary schedules for the 2014-2015 school year were approved as presented.

• Agreements have been secured for local beef and some vegetables for the upcoming school year’s meal service and the hiring process for the Tongue River Middle School and Big Horn Elementary School cook positions will now begin.

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