Working on a plan
CCSD2 Board of Trustees to hold special meeting on school plan, masks a requirement from local and state officials
July 22, 2020
The start of classes in Carbon County School District No. 2 (CCSD2) is less than a month away. As that date approaches, the district is working within requirements and recommendations from Carbon County Public Health and the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) to provide a stable framework for students in light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
At the July 15 meeting of the CCSD2 Board of Trustees, Superintendent Jim Copeland provided the board with updates on progress. While he admitted that there were still some unknowns as to what the framework could look like, what was known was the requirement of masks in school.
“The biggest area of contention across the state seems to be masks,” said Copeland. “Bottom line, I don’t want to get into an argument or a discussion about pro and con and who thinks what, but I would say that my goal is to write a plan that will allow us the freedom to reopen our schools.”
In June, WDE had informed the 48 school districts across the state that a plan approved by their county health officials and the state would be needed before school could resume in-class instruction. On July 1, the WDE released Smart Start Guidance, a 25 page document with requirements and recommendations for school districts.
The pressure for schools to resume in-class instruction has been felt nationwide. President Donald Trump has stated his desire for schools to reopen while also criticising guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In tweets from the president, he has appeared to threaten cutting funding from districts that do not open for in-class instruction.
Within the 25 page Smart Start Guidance from the WDE, there are three tiers offered for moving forward with the school year. Tier I, which is the lowest tier and what all schools are expected to start with, is the closest to a “normal” reopening. Under that tier, schools must develop plans for how students enter and exit the building, parents must screen their children for symptoms of COVID-19 and students or staff with COVID-like symptoms must remain at home.
Tier II is referred to as “hybrid” and would combine in-class instruction and remote education. Under this tier, teachers must be in their classroom instructing face-to-face students while simultaneously instructing remote students. Additionally, attendance is tracked twice a day for elementary students and twice a class period for secondary students.
Tier III would be when the schools are closed by either local or state health officials. Under this tier, schools would operate similar to how they did in the spring and districts would operate under the state approved Adapted Learning Plan.
“Whether you’re in Tier I, II or III is up to your county health department and the state health department. We are so dependent on what they tell us. They will tell us, if there’s confirmed cases, that we have to go into Tier II,” Copeland said. “She (Amanda Brown) did tell me that we possibly could be in Tier II in one of our communities but not in the other two because of our distances between communities.”
Abbey Raymer expressed her concern about the structure and moving between in-class and remote education or a combination of the two.
“I know, for the elementary school age kids, that was a really hard transition. Not only mentally, but emotionally. I do have a pretty major concern about that aspect of that,” said Raymer.
“I don’t know what to say other than we’re required in that Tier II to have, possibly, that situation where we’re ordered to close down for certain times. What we will do is, in this virtual thing, try to … improve what we had when we just had to decide something overnight last spring,” replied Copeland.
Getting a Framework
On July 14, Copeland had been in a meeting with district nurses, Curriculum Director Noel Manning, Board Trustees Chairman James Sewell and Public Health Nurse Manager Amanda Brown. According to both Copeland and Sewell, the guidance offered by Brown was more flexible than expected.
“I will say that our county health department is giving us more flexibility than many counties across the state, probably due to our good situation in Carbon County as far as being one of the least affected as of today,” said Copeland.
Copeland also informed the Board of Trustees that he had talked with Mike Hammell, Carbon County School District No. 1 superintendent, and that the other school district had already developed a framework.
“They’ve already written a framework that they had been working on. They tweaked it somewhat. They have approval of the county health department already so he was kind enough to just share that so we had some kind of idea of what our county health department was going to be,” said Copeland.
While, according to Copeland, Brown had offered some flexibility in regards to the plan for in-class instruction, the one requirement was masks. Though masks would not be required for primary students in the same cohort or grade, they would be required in cases such as travel on buses or class changes in which social distancing of six feet was not possible.
Despite the flexibility offered from Carbon County Public Health, the contention of the topic was evident in the meeting with one parent, Katie Walker, expressing her disapproval of the mask requirement.
“My main question is what is the punishment if I say my kid is not wearing a mask? Are you just going to say we can’t come, we can’t get on the bus? What’s the punishment? Because I need to make a decision sooner rather than later if I can send my kids to school even, because I’m not doing masks,” said Walker.
In response, Copeland informed Walker that it was his philosophy that there was no point in having a rule if it was not going to be enforced.
“If we’re requiring masks on buses then we can’t let people get on buses without a mask or there’s no rule,” Copeland said. “I don’t see the feasibility in saying, ‘Well, it’s optional’ because it’s not optional. It’s a rule that’s been approved by the county health and the state.”
While Walker recognized that Copeland was “between a rock and hard place”, she reiterated her frustration with the mask requirement and stated that she would not be sending her children to school with “any level of masks”.
“That’s part of the freedom of this country to make those decisions,” replied Copeland.
In addition to the frustration expressed by Walker, Copeland stated he had received emails from parents with concerns across the spectrum. A district-wide poll had also been sent to parents with a deadline of July 20 at 5 p.m., the results of which would be made public with private information removed. With a deadline of August 3, the Board of Trustees will be holding a special meeting to formally approve the district’s plan to be sent to local health officials and the WDE.
The special meeting of the CCSD2 Board of Trustees will be at 6 p.m. on July 23 at the Central Office in Saratoga.
The next regular meeting of the CCSD2 Board of Trustees will be at 6 p.m. on August 17 at the Central Office in Saratoga.