The Teton County school board faces a decision about whether private schools will need to foot the bill for their students to participate in activities at Jackson Hole High School.
For years, the district has allowed students from the Journeys School and Jackson Hole Community School to join activities like sports teams and the drama department at the public school, but the state’s block grant does not provide funding for those students.
The school district’s Chief Operating Officer, Brad Barker, says this has cost the district about $96,000 a year.
“I think the simplest way to look at it is anytime you’re stepping outside of the revenue model to fund—in this case, activities and sports—you’re having to pull money from the general fund, which ultimately is taking money from education and education services,” Barker says.
Wyoming law does say students who live in a school district but aren’t enrolled in it should be allowed to participate in school activities, but Barker and others say the law is written for homeschooled students, not private school kids.
“The statute is written so that homeschooled students do have the opportunity to participate in athletics and activities that are of course well beyond the resources of an individual family to provide,” says Barker. “It would not require us to make those activities available for private school students, because they are fully enrolled.”
But not everyone agrees with Barker's assessment of the law. In an email, Teton County school board trustee Keith Gingery wrote that he thought the district is legally required to provide activities to private school students free-of-charge.
"The School District and the private schools are trying to find a number that they can agree on, for the private schools to pay, even though there is no legal requirement for the private schools to pay anything," Gingery wrote. "The School District has been asking the private schools to chip in some money. The private schools have argued that their parents already pay their property taxes."
Some in the community have also questioned whether Idaho residents who attend private schools in Jackson should get to be part of district activities.
The Teton County school board will discuss the issue at its next meeting on July 8.