Park County panel says Wyoming should pay for Yellowstone students' education


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CODY, Wyoming — Park County officials are recommending that Wyoming pay for the costs of educating 37 children who live in Yellowstone National Park after the U.S. government said it would stop footing the bill.

The Park County District Boundary Board voted 5-1 earlier this week to recommend extending the Powell school district's boundaries to include the children of park employees who live in Mammoth Hot Springs.

The children would be considered members of the Wyoming school district but they would continue to study in nearby Gardiner, Montana.

The state's school board must approve the recommendation before the change takes effect.

The federal government had paid for the children to attend Gardiner public schools for decades, but announced recently that it would stop. The National Park Service said federal funding for the Yellowstone children should have ended under a bill passed in the 1970s.

Wyoming's constitution obligates the state to educate its resident children in the state. But Yellowstone is a federal jurisdiction, which officials said complicates the matter.

The board — made up of the Park County commissioners, assessor and treasurer — had wanted assurances that there wouldn't be problems between the federal government and the Powell school district in the future if it took over funding.

Their questions included whether the school district could be indemnified against repaying education costs incurred by the federal government and what would happen if the school district decided it was necessary to build a school in Mammoth Hot Springs in the future.

Yellowstone superintendent Dan Wenk said park officials would be open to negotiating with Powell officials. Park officials comply with Wyoming regulations on things such as sewage systems and underground storage tanks, he said.

"Every time we turn around, we're trying to be good neighbors. We're trying to comply with the state in terms of the laws, the regulations that they have," Wenk said.

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