BIG PINEY – The school year in Big Piney has already experienced plenty of success through its sports – BPHS volleyball just scored a regional championship while its football team advanced to the state semifinals on Friday.
In the classroom, the Punchers are also hoping to repeat on last year’s success. BPHS set a school record with its ACT scores last spring, with a composite score of 21.4. The 21.4 ranked fourth among Wyoming high schools.
It also had the state’s best math score, the second highest English score and the eighth best science score on the ACT.
“Great testing scores are a result of great teachers,” Sublette County School Board No. 9 Clerk Darby Hoffman said. “(We have) great administrative leadership and an awesome teaching staff.”
All of the district’s schools also met or exceeded the expectations on Wyoming’s other standardized tests, while LaBarge Elementary exceeded expectations for the fourth year in a row.
The district, however, faces a couple of new challenges this year: a smaller budget and a new standardized test, WY-TOPP.
The district is down about 27 students this year, to 544. With the state funding each student with about $15,000, which means the district has about $405,000 less in its budget than last year.
“One challenge facing the district is keeping our enrollment up and cuts by the state, which both are out of our control,” Hoffman said. “This puts a strain on what we can continue to offer our great students.”
The shrinking budget forced the district to combine the fourth and fifth grades into one class with 19 students at LaBarge Elementary. The district added a certified teacher to work as an aide in the class, but parents still expressed frustration at recent board meetings. One parent asked that the aide teach one of grades, but the additional cost would have put the district’s LaBarge budget in the hole by $20,000.
“The combined class in LaBarge is being closely monitored,” Hoffman said. “As of now, the principal and superintendent say things are going well. Our students come first and the necessary resources will be provided for their success as is for our whole student body.”
Big Piney is also adjusting to the new standardized test: WY-TOPP replaced PAWS and ASPIRE, which was an ACT precursor, this year.
The district had optional practice tests the students could take to get more comfortable with the test last month, but one teacher said there are a still a lot of unknowns.
“We really don’t know enough about the test to teach it at this point,” Big Piney Elementary Principal Amy Bell said at the Sept. 19 board meeting. “If we teach Wyoming Core Standards, then we doing the best for our kids.”
“The first round of (WY-TOPP) testing is going to be a challenge due to a change for teachers and students,” Hoffman said. “We have a great staff and teachers that will adapt well and over time help our students excel in this new testing program.”