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May 29, 2013 6:46 PM by Shannon Davis

Anaconda School District deals with enrollment decline

Student enrollment in the Anaconda School District is following a downward trend, according Superintendent Tom Darnell.

The third grade teaching staff in Anaconda was cut from four teachers to three due to small class size.

"We were fortunate that there were no layoffs required," Darnell said.

A kindergarten teacher who is retiring will be replaced by a third grade teacher. These types of cuts are not unusual.

"It's been continuing for the last 30 years primarily due to the close of the major industry in this community which was the smelter," Darnell said.

The Anaconda School District had 2,500 students enrolled in 1980. The district now has about 1,000 students.

"It's attributed to the availability of jobs for those families that have children of school age," Darnell said "It's just not here in Anaconda."

The kindergarten class this year was the smallest the district had seen yet with 61 students. Next year the kindergarten class is expected to increase. Nearly 80 students have applied.

"I know there is more out there," said Joe Mehrens, principal at W.K. Dwyer Elementary School. "Hopefully more coming in, but that's a huge jump."

In the last three years the high school student population declined by 150 students.

"It's quite possible we'll be down under 300 in the high school in the not too distant future," Darnell said.

The annual budget is based on student enrollment.

"One of the biggest issues we've had over the years is the lack of being able to maintain the buildings," Mehrens said.

The Anaconda School District will consider consolidating from four campuses to three over the next fiscal year.

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