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UW gives the Lab School one year to find a new location

A brick sign with the words “University of Wyoming,” with tall trees and a brick building in the background.
Ted Brummond
/
University of Wyoming Photo Service
The University of Wyoming has been home to the UW Lab School, in some form, since 1887.

Since 1887, the University of Wyoming (UW) has taught teachers how to teach in the UW Lab School, a public elementary and middle school housed on campus. But now the university has given the school a year to find a different location or close down.

Albany County School Board Chair Beth Bear said the news came as a shock.

“Sadness probably is the best way to sum that up from what we've heard,” Bear said. “I think some frustration, of course on both ends. And rightfully so. I think people are frustrated at both the district and the university for not being able to reach a compromise earlier.”

UW spokesman Chad Baldwin said the news shouldn’t have been a surprise.

“There's been a ‘Save the Lab School’ sort of effort going on for months,” Baldwin said. “It's not like there aren't still plenty of places for you to enroll your children in Laramie.”

He said UW and the school district couldn’t reach an agreement about staffing costs, security issues and the fewer number of student teachers from the university who are allowed to learn how to teach in the school’s classrooms. That’s a problem leftover from when the number of student teachers was reduced during the COVID pandemic. In UW’s press release, they also cited, “The fact that the Lab School operates in a facility not owned by the school district is incongruent with aspects of the state’s public school funding model and construction process.”

Baldwin said these issues have stymied the process of settling on language for a new memorandum of understanding, something they’ve successfully done every five years since 2008. But Baldwin said the district failed to come to an agreement with UW for a new contract.

“For the past academic year, the school functioned without a formal written agreement. That's just not appropriate from the university standpoint, that shouldn't be that way,” he said.

Baldwin said maybe the Lab School has run its course. Bear disagrees.

“The Lab school has a long history of being outdoor based, being learner centered, which is a big focus of our district going forward with our new strategic plan, and so it really does fill a unique niche,” Bear said.

The UW Lab School is home to about 240 students, many who are children of the university’s faculty and staff. Laramie has two other choice schools including Laramie Montessori and Snowy Range Academy.

She said the hope is UW will give the district two years, instead of one, to find a solution. The school board plans to vote on a final agreement at their July 17 meeting.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.

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