The state recession has lead to a drop in students in the Natrona County School District, which oddly enough mitigates the decline in state funding, its superintendent said Tuesday.

"Yesterday I looked at it, I think it was almost 150, right now, today, kids sitting in seats, compared to the number of students we had on the same day a year ago," Steve Hopkins said.

"The projected enrollment (for kindergarten students) for next fall right now is down about a hundred," Hopkins said.

What remains unknown is how many newly unemployed parents are keeping their children in school until the end of the school year before their families move away, he said. "We may see an additional drop in enrollment this summer, which quite frankly we won't know about until next fall when the school doors open."

This trend coincides with the Legislature's mandate for the district to reduce its budget by 1 percent this year.

The district has through attrition not filled vacated positions mostly in administration, Hopkins said. "Our goal right now is to keep those class sizes right where they're at, try to have the reductions in the budgets be a long ways away from the the teacher and the students in the classroom."

The Legislature considers a variety of factors in school funding, and the biggest driver is the number of students, he said.

"So when your students go down, you get less revenue, but when you have less students, you need less personnel to run the school district," Hopkins said. "It's a very cause-and-effect kind of relationship."

The budget reductions affect operations and not capital construction, he said.

Monday, the district's board of trustees awarded a $4,935,000 contract to Sampson Construction to build the new Kelly Walsh Community Aquatic Center, according to the agenda for the meeting.

Hopkins said KWHS will have the same pool for less than half the project that would have been funded by a proposed bond issue that voters rejected in May 2014.

Some trustees also expressed a desire to eventually be able to build a pool on the Natrona County High School campus.

In other capital construction projects, the bimonthly report stated the new $41 million Roosevelt High School/Pathways Innovation Center on Independence Court in west Casper still is scheduled for completion in June.

The $86.3 million Kelly Walsh High School campus is about 81 percent complete with a scheduled finish date of summer 2018.

The third and fourth phases of the $95.4 million Natrona County High School campus are 94 percent and 67 percent completed and are scheduled to be finished in the summer of 2018.

The report also contains details of other projects including the Dean Morgan Junior High School renovation, Bar Nunn Elementary School addition and renovation, the New Capacity Elementary School on the site of the former CY Junior High School, and major maintenance programs.

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