Let common sense prevail

Dec 12, 2017 By Randy Tucker, Staff Writer

"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals, and you know it."A quote from "Men in Black," but it's accurate for the upcoming legislative session in Cheyenne.

At home, these people are rational, compromising and articulate, but something strange happens in Cheyenne and suddenly they're trying to ban wind power and building aircraft carriers on Yellowstone Lake.

Closing your local school constitutes political suicide, but it's up for legislation. Here's a look at how extreme consolidation could change the face of prep sports:

There are 71 Wyoming high schools. With 98,000 square miles and approximately 25,000 high school students, the challenges of consolidation are extreme.The top 10 high schools have 15,000 of Wyoming's students. There are more kids in the halls at Casper Kelly Walsh than all eight Fremont County high schools combined. There are 46 high schools with fewer than 250 kids.

At the extreme, the legislature could reduce the total number of high schools to 17 in Class 4-A, a dozen in Class 3-A and a handful of others.Normative Services and St. Stephen's are not funded by the state -- they get to remain. Little Snake River, Dubois, Lusk, Cokeville, Kemmerer and a combined Sundance/Hulett are just too far to bus students elsewhere.

It's not pleasant to consider, but this is the discussion about to ensue in Cheyenne.Wind River and Shoshoni go to Riverton, with 950 enrolled students. Wyoming Indian and Fort Washakie students ride the bus to Lander with about 880 kids.The people of Fort Washakie fought for half-a-century to get their own high school and now, economic conditions could end the dream before it gets a chance to take hold.

In other areas Tongue River, BigHorn and Arvada-Clearmont become Sheridan Broncs. Lovell takes in Rocky Mountain and Burlington.Greybull and Basin become a small 3-A. With a distance of only eight miles between the two schools, parents' schedules aren't changed at all.

Ten Sleep, Glendo, Guernsey, Chugwater, Rock River, Meeteetse, Kaycee, Hanna, Encampment and Saratoga all become K-8 "attendance centers," replaced by a daily ride to Worland, Wheatland, Laramie, Cody, Sheridan and Rawlins. Students in Lingle drive eight miles south to Torrington and their rivals at Southeast Goshen do the same in the opposite direction.

A few larger schools would end as well, Powell students ride the 28 miles to Cody, Buffalo the half hour to Sheridan, Glenrock rolls down I-25 to Douglas and Sublette High opens in Pinedale with the ranch kids from Big Piney.

Advocates will note that Natrona's 1,900 students have 18 times the enrollment of Shoshoni. The new school in Wranglerville cost $45 million, Natrona's $325 million, including $80,000,000 for the House of Harshman, as their field house is known.Ratios are easy to argue, 18-to-1 at a cost of 8-to-1. Easy math, but the product in question is our children and the quality of life they can achieve through local schools.

Here is a message to our elected representatives. "When the gavel sounds next month, stay a person. Don't become "people."

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