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Preparing For Budget Cuts, Cody School District Cuts Elementary Art Teachers

by Max Klingensmith

The Cody School District has started reviewing its budget ahead of potential cuts at the legislative level.

Park County School #6 has cut almost 16 full-time positions due to an upcoming statute deadline for renewing or ending staff contracts. The school district made the cuts via retirement, attrition or elimination.

Two positions that the school district eliminated were early education art teachers.

But Park County Art Council executive director Steve Shrepferman said this decision will impact elementary student's education.

"The arts can explain difficult concepts that kids have to deal with, whether it's in science, or mathematics, and the arts can provide a different way of explaining it," said Shrepferman. "And by introducing visual components, or musical components, that help to teach that every kid learns a little bit differently."

The school board has stated that art standards will still be taught by elementary teachers. But Shrepferman said he's worried that some teachers may not be willing to teach art or just overlook it. He acknowledged that arts can be offered after school as well but doesn't think that's enough.

"When you put it after school, there are so many kids whose parents cannot or just do not get them involved in after school activities," he said. "And so it tends not to reach the lower income sector. And that's where having things in the classroom has a broader impact on the entire community."

But Shrepferman understands that the school board is in a difficult position with future education budget cuts from the legislature.

Board of Trustees Vice Chair Stefanie Bell said 85 percent of the district's funding goes directly to personnel salaries and benifits. Plus, the district has to integrate computer science by 2023, according to the state mandate. That mandate is not funded but is required and will be accessed unlike elementary arts. Bell said an element of an elementary teacher's education is art as well as social studies and science but computer science is not.

"In looking to provide, what we know, is an expectation for the state. We saw a time that we really needed to change that focus, and move towards making sure that we offer an excellent education to meet those standards of computer science at the elementary level," said Bell.

She said she's confident elementary teachers will make sure that art standards will still be met.

Kamila has worked for public radio stations in California, New York, France and Poland. Originally from New York City, she loves exploring new places. Kamila received her master in journalism from Columbia University. She has won a regional Murrow award for her reporting on mental health and firearm owners. During her time leading the Wyoming Public Media newsroom, reporters have won multiple PMJA, Murrow and Top of the Rockies Excellence in Journalism Awards. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the surrounding areas with her two pups and husband.
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