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Anaconda School District says shrinking enrollment could force school closure

By Jacqueline Gedeon, KTVM Butte Reporter, jgedeon@ktvm.com
Published On: Jan 31 2014 07:29:00 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 31 2014 09:15:39 PM MST
ANACONDA, Mont. -

The Superintendent of Anaconda Schools says shrinking enrollment could force them to close a school.

Anaconda School District Superintendent Tom Darnell told us the Anaconda School District is shrinking. The entire district is down to just 1,000 students across four schools.

"The population of Deer Lodge County has been dropping significantly and the school district is no exception," said Darnell.

Darnell said the district has lost 300 students over 10 years. He told us its forced them to weigh some tough options, that's why they have formed a committee to look at what they have to do.

"There's a number of people on the committee and like any committee there's a lot of differences in opinion," said Darnell.

The committee is looking at different options, including closing Lincoln Elementary and combining elementary classes.

"It's open for discussion we're going to entertain all the options that are available," said Darnell.

Not only are they considering closing down Lincoln Elementary, they are also considering combining the junior high and high school into a single building.

"There's lots of ideas being tossed around, some feasible, some not so feasible," said Chairman of the Anaconda School Board Steve Tozzi. "If we don't consolidate the buildings we will be looking at laying off good quality teachers increasing class sizes getting rid of vital programs."

But high school student Kaylee Cotton told us she hopes they don't choose to combine the junior high and high schools.

"Next year I'll be a senior and I don't want to eat lunch with 7th graders," she said.

But others in the community, like Fred Lorengo, say this what needs to be done when the population decreases.

"I understand putting smaller children with larger children could be a problem, but if it's properly segregated and monitored I don't see a problem," he said.

Darnell assures us the district will weigh all the options.

"We'll study each one individually and try to come to an agreement on what is the best plan for the school district," he said.

The public will have chance to weigh in before any decisions are made. Trustees will look at options and take public comment at a meeting on February 17.