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School district starts year with transitions, climbing enrollment

General manager

Carol Carlson, a third grade teacher at Wellington Elementary, puts the finishing touches on a bulletin board she is preparing for the beginning of school. Carlson, who has been teaching in the district for 20 years, explains that she uses a theme from one of the summer blockbuster movies for the classroom's returning bulletin board. The district expected 3,439 students to attend school on Thursday.

Carbon School District facilities open the doors to students Thursday with two major differences from last year.

For the first time in 46 years, the district will be operating only one high school due to the closure of East Carbon last spring.

And for the first time in quite a while, the district's enrollment is apparently up instead of down at the beginning of a school year.

"We don't know why the numbers are up," said superintendent David Armstrong on Tuesday. "There hasn't been any apparent growth in the county, yet some of the enrollment figures have grown and we aren't sure why."

Overall, the district projects that 3,439 students will show up for school. The enrollments at Mont Harmon and Carbon High will increase, in part, because of the students being bused from the East Carbon/Sunnyside area.

Carbon High will start with an enrollment of 800 students and, at Mont Harmon, 699 students were expected to walk through the doors on Thursday.

The superintendent pointed out that Helper Junior High's enrollment will be about where the district expected at 166 students.

The largest enrollment at an elementary school in the district will be at Creekview with 456 students. Castle Heights will follow at 455.

Wellington Elementary is the next at 350, while Sally Mauro Elementary in Helper will have 310 students.

The smallest enrollment in the district will be at Petersen Elementary, with 115 students expected to show up for the first day of school.

School bus driver Sharon Adair, a recent hire for Carbon County School District's bus fleet, practices dock parking in the parking lost west of the bus garage Wednesday morning. The test is one of a series of maneuvers drivers must perform.

At a board of eduation meeting earlier in the month, the district decided to construct a new elementary school near the site of the East Carbon High building.

"When the board members examined the options, they decided that putting up a new building with all the latest technology would make the most sense," said Armstrong. "In the remodeling scenarios presented to the board, the district would spend a lot of money and still have old buildings that were just retrofitted. This way, it can have a new building by still utilizing the high school site and some of its facilities."

The planned elementary school will be built close to the present high school gym and cafeteria, but not attached to it. The plan, according to Armstrong is to tear down the classroom section of the old high school, but to leave the gym and cafeteria so the elementary school can utilize it. The pool area attached to the gym was also determined to be too costly to repair and it will be taken down too.

"The new building will have eight classrooms, with a faculty lounge, offices and a library," stated Armstrong. "The facility will have the latest technology with audio enhancement equipment, smart boards and computers in every room. There will also be a small computer lab as well."

The superintendent also pointed out because of escalating energy costs to heat and cool buildings, the school's classrooms will have individual atmospheric control and operation systems. This will allow one room to be used, for instance, in the summer and have air conditioning without the entire school having to be cooled down.

The board has already picked the architect for the project (Edwards and Daniels of Salt Lake) and the plans for the new building are in the process of being drawn up at the present time.

The board authorized up to $3 million for the project.

As for the old Peterson School, Armstrong indicated that the board had not reached a solid conclusion as to what to do with it once it is empty, but he doubts it will be sold.

"There has been some talk about leasing it to various people or agencies that are interested in it," he said.

That decision would be in line with what many declining enrollment school districts are doing throughout the nation when they end up with empty buildings. Some districts have found they can't get a good price for buildings or can't sell them at all. Others who have been leasing empty spaces for years also have found that when growth reappeared in their districts, they needed the space that the old buildings provided.

At the board meeting in June it was reported that enrollment conversion from East Carbon High to Carbon High was going well. The Carbon High counseling and high school staff had met with with the students and parents from the east county area last spring and many said that both sides felt very good about the transition.

During meetings considering the closure of East Carbon High last spring a lot of reservations were expressed by many in the East Carbon area about their kids going so far away to school and how those students will be received by Carbon High student body.

The answer to how all those issues pan out will now become apparent in the next few weeks.

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