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District 21 ends bus agreement with Lander and Pavillion schools

Aug 10, 2017 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff Writer

The Fort Washakie school board voted in June not to renew its transportation agreements with Lander and Pavillion schools.

The resolution states school buses from other districts can't enter the boundaries of Fremont County School District 21 in Fort Washakie to transport students to other schools. It also states that FCSD 21 will no longer provide transportation for its own students to attend school in Pavillion.

Pavillion school buses don't transport students from outside of Fremont County School District 6.

Construction

The transportation move is not a surprise: Fort Washakie superintendent Terry Ebert said the other school districts were notified a year ago that their agreements would not be renewed for 2017-2018.

In fact, he said, his board has talked about discontinuing the transportation agreements since construction of two new FCSD 21 school buildings began in 2015.

The district is close to completing the $55 million project, and students will start the 2017-2018 school year in the new buildings.

"FCSD 21 is going to operate a high school and not willingly pass our high school student out to neighboring districts, which was the case when we didn't have facilities," Ebert said.

Lander schools superintendent Dave Baker didn't see an initial problem with the decision to not renew the agreement.

"Since it is an annual agreement, when circumstances change, agreements can change," Baker said. "We won't know how it will affect enrollment until school starts, although we're not anticipating a large decrease."

Ebert said FCSD 21 will be able to report on enrollment numbers at the end of August or early September.

Options

"Parents clearly still have choices of where they want to send their students if they don't want to send them to their home district," he noted, explaining that parents who want their children to attend schools elsewhere will now have to assume the responsibility for the transportation.

Fort Washakie's new buildings cover about 188,000 total square feet, including classrooms, shops, STEM labs and a new sports facility that can hold about 1,500 people.

Each classroom covers about 900 square feet.

Of the $55 million total for the project, at least $20 million was used to build the new Fort Washakie high school.

Most of the funding came from the Wyoming Schools Facilities Department, though FCSD 21 provided $1.6 million for construction.

Transportation

Each year, various school districts in Fremont County make requests to allow buses to enter each other's districts. For example, the Lander school district has a transportation agreement with the Wyoming Indian school district, and the Arapahoe school district transports some of its students to homes in Riverton .

During a meeting in May, Arapahoe superintendent Kenneth Crowson said that the lack of housing in Arapahoe is the main reason his district provides transportation to Riverton.

The Riverton district regularly allows other district buses to enter its boundaries, though it doesn't provide transportation outside of the district.

Consolidation

Ebert mentioned a comment made by Wyoming Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander, during a recent meeting of the Select Committee on Tribal Relations. At that time, Larsen recalled seeing several school buses belonging to different districts in close proximity to one another near U.S. Highway 26 at Blue Sky Highway.

The legislator wondered why that was.

"It raises questions about consolidation," Ebert said.

All Fremont County superintendents voiced opposition to consolidation during that select committee meeting in May, but they were instructed by legislators to explore the idea further in a collaborative manner.

Currently, students can attend any school in Fremont County, but school districts aren't obligated to accept students who don't live within the district boundaries.

If a student does live in the school district, that district must accept the student, unless he or she has been expelled, Ebert explained.

Expulsions can only last one year at maximum.
 

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