Changes are afoot for Kelly Elementary School.
Earlier this spring, Superintendent Gillian Chapman announced to parents that Teton County School District No. 1 was considering shifting the boundary for the outlying elementary school. Due to capacity issues and large class sizes, the plan would send kids south of Sagebrush Drive to Jackson Elementary School. Sagebrush Drive runs just north of the Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis Club and intersects with Gros Ventre Junction.
“We have been concerned with the numbers at Kelly in multi-grade classrooms, and our most recent review has even higher numbers than anticipated,” she wrote April 15 to parents.
Families were displeased. Several wrote the school board, asking it to rethink the plan. Some said kids should be grandfathered in; others said students in Moose should attend Jackson instead, arguing those families were less likely to be established, though one Moose parent wrote in to say the opposite.
Parents worried their students would be deprived of the tight-knit community offered at the Kelly school, which has split-grade classrooms that are usually small. However, recent population growth in subdivisions around Spring Gulch Road and north has increased class sizes to the point that in some cases they dwarf those at the in-town elementary schools.
Kelly is on a small parcel, so adding classrooms and teachers isn’t much of an option. Chapman met with Kelly parents at the end of April, and from those conversations the district created a plan that the school board approved unanimously May 12.
The proposed boundary changes will not take place until the 2022-23 school year. Students who already go to school in Kelly, and their siblings who are too young to attend yet or “in utero,” Chapman said, will still attend the school.
Any other children south of Sagebrush Drive for the 2022-23 school year and beyond will attend Jackson elementary. The goal is that by diverting new families, the Kelly school population can remain stable.
To deal with the large class sizes, the school is already seeing, the district is hiring a kindergarten teacher, which will put that class size at 13 next year, and the first-grade class will have 10 students. The grades 2-3 class will have 16, and the fourth and fifth grade class will have 22 but with an extra paraprofessional.
Because of the extra support, Trustee Jennifer Zung asked Chapman on May 12 whether the boundary needed to be changed. Gauging future enrollment is difficult, Chapman replied, but population growth in Teton County was likely bound to push capacity at Kelly no matter what.
“In order to avoid having this conversation, this angst — because the angst is real for families — it’ll happen every year if we don’t make a decision,” she said.