Wyoming to cover costs for Yellowstone students enrolled in Montana schools

As a temporary fix for a complex, long-term problem, Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead has announced that the state will cover the $500,000 cost for children living in Mammoth Hot Springs to attend school in Gardiner, Mont.

Mammoth Hot Springs, headquarters for the National Park Service in Yellowstone National Park, is home to about three dozen students who attend school six miles away in Gardiner.

For several years, the Park Service had paid the Gardiner school district to cover the cost for kids from Mammoth, which lies inside the park, but also just on the Wyoming side of the state line with Montana. A recent federal legal opinion determined that the Park Service cannot pay for the students, leaving a hole in Gardiner’s budget and concerns in Wyoming about picking up the slack.

“Our first obligation is to serve Wyoming’s school-age children,” Mead said in a statement released Wednesday.

Mammoth lies inside Park County, Wyoming, but is not a part of any school district in the county. Its residents live in federal housing and so therefore don’t pay property taxes in Park County, which is a major source of school funding.

There has been some concern and confusion among Park County officials over picking up the tab to educate Mammoth children when the federal government had traditionally covered the cost.

Mead said state attorneys have done extensive research and determined that “the State of Wyoming has the responsibility to educate these students.”

Mead will use the state’s emergency fund to pay $497,722 to the school district in Gardiner, a slightly lower per-student amount than the Wyoming school districts in nearby Cody and Powell receive through the Wyoming funding model.

“All Wyoming children are entitled to a public school education. I encourage the school districts in Park County to expand their boundaries to cover these children,” Mead said. “This is the long-term solution for Mammoth Hot Springs students.”

Park County School District #6 in Cody and Park County School District #1 in Powell border the part of Yellowstone National Park that is not in a Wyoming school district. Southern Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park are part of Teton County School District #1 and students in these areas receive funding from the state.

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