Aug 15, 2012 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff WriterSuperintendent Terry Snyder said the Fremont County School District 25 budget is tighter than usual this year, mostly because of administrators' work to comply with Wyoming's 16:1 student-teacher ratio requirement.
Snyder said the district has hired 13 more teachers since last summer in an attempt to bring Riverton's K-3 ratio down from 25:1.
"During the 2010-2011 school year Riverton had the highest K-3 ratio in the state," Snyder said. "We were at a pretty large deficit there, in a deep hole."
Five teachers were hired during the summer of 2011, but Snyder said the district saw a 10 percent increase in K-3 enrollment that fall. At the end of the 2010-11 school year Riverton had 820 K-3 students, but by this spring the number was set at 858.
To accommodate the increase, another eight teachers were hired for the 2011-12 year, Snyder said, bringing the student-teacher ratio down to about 20:1.
"So we still have a ways to go," he said.
Snyder said the district has been granted a waiver from the state while his staff continues working on the ratio requirement.
Affect on the budget
The decrease in class sizes will be beneficial for students, but Snyder said it also requires more funding for salaries, benefits and instructional support.
"From the previous budget we are now carrying 13 more teachers than we had before, so when you look at the impact on the budget you can see that's a priority," Snyder said.
Within the district's $36.1 million budget of expenditures by program, $20.6 million has been allocated for instruction compared to last year's $19.7 million. The instructional support line item for this year has grown by $400,000 to $3.9 million.
Under expenses itemized by object, salaries have grown from an anticipated $18.9 million last year to $19.9 million this year, and benefits have increased from a projected $7.7 million last year to $9.1 million this year.
Some reorganization was required to accommodate the new students and teachers for this year, Snyder said. The Rendezvous Elementary School building that previously housed only fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms now will have to hold all of Riverton's third-graders as well.
"We truly had to use every single space at Rendezvous that exists," Snyder said. "We used every square foot, and that's not an exaggeration."
This summer, he said, workers tore out locker rooms and shower areas at Rendezvous and converted them to instructional spaces and storage rooms. Meanwhile, the classrooms at Riverton's other elementary buildings were reserved for smaller sections of kindergarteners, first-graders and second-graders.
"Virtually every classroom that we moved third-graders out of was filled back in with K-2 because of the lower student-teacher ratio (requirement)," Snyder said.
The experience made it apparent to district staff that Riverton is in need of another elementary school building.
"We really believe we have a legitimate argument for additional space," Snyder said, pointing to the K-3 student-teacher ratio that still must go down to be in compliance with the state. "We are virtually out of options as to where to go with our kids."
The Wyoming School Facilities Commission did a study of district needs throughout the state last year, and Snyder said that group will determine whether District 25 is eligible for funding help to build a new school. He said the report will be analyzed this year.
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