- Associated Press - Sunday, May 10, 2015

POWELL, Wyo. (AP) - The state of Wyoming has paid a Montana school district more than $438,000 to educate nearly three dozen students who live on the Wyoming side of the border in Yellowstone National Park.

The payment was made in April to Gardiner Public Schools, which is located at the north entrance to Yellowstone. The park straddles the Wyoming-Montana border.

Wyoming was forced to cover the costs of Mammoth Hot Springs students’ education in Gardiner after the federal government abruptly announced last year that it could no longer foot the bill for the Yellowstone students, as it had for decades.

While Wyoming has a constitutional obligation to educate the state’s children, Mammoth and the northern part of Yellowstone were not included in a school district.

“They were in their own little world out there,” said Kevin Mitchell, superintendent of Park County School District 1.

After months of deliberations, Park County officials in Wyoming and the Wyoming State Board of Education agreed to expand Park County No. 1’s boundaries to include the northern part of Yellowstone and pave the way for the state to begin paying for the Mammoth students’ education.

The Gardiner and Powell school districts entered into a memorandum of understanding for the students’ education this spring.

“I think it’s the right thing to do,” Mitchell told the Powell Tribune (https://bit.ly/1IWyjiw). “It certainly was a more lengthy process than I anticipated from day one, but the end result is the same - Wyoming kids get funded by Wyoming money.”

Gardiner Public Schools Superintendent JT Stroder said he thought the arrangement with the Powell school district went well.

“There were a lot of moving parts to get that lined out. And once we got all of the government tape out of the way, it seemed like it went really smoothly,” Stroder said.

About 35 Mammoth students, from kindergarten through high school, attend school in Gardiner.

Stroder said that Yellowstone employees often move in and out of the park, so the number of students from Mammoth fluctuates throughout the school year.

With the communities of Powell, Clark, Garland, Ralston and the northern portion of Yellowstone National Park, the Powell school district now encompasses a geographical area of 3,197 square miles, Mitchell said.

Previously, it was about 1,400 square miles, meaning the Yellowstone expansion more than doubled the size of the school district.


Information from: Powell (Wyo.) Tribune, https://www.powelltribune.com

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