Reopening plan approved by school board
School district’s Smart Start Reopening Plan sent to Wyoming Department of Education after special meeting
July 29, 2020
Carbon County School District No. 2 (CCSD2) passed the first hurdle in resuming school this fall as the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the district’s Smart Start Reopening Plan during the June 23 special meeting.
According to CCSD2 Superintendent Jim Copeland, the district received guidance throughout the process from Carbon County Public Health. Before classes can officially resume on August 17, however, the plan has to receive final approval from the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE).
As was reported previously (see “Working on a plan” on page 1 of the July 22 Saratoga Sun), guidance from the state included three tiers that school districts could operate in throughout the 2020/2021 school year. The lowest tier, Tier I or “open”, is the tier in which all districts are expected to begin the year and is the closest to what one might call normal. All three tiers, however, have requirements for operations.
“All districts are required to work with their county public health department and, basically, they have the guidance as to tell us what tier we should be in, or move to, or move in and out of,” said Copeland. “So, it’s designed to move in and out of these tiers according to what your county health department decides what is appropriate based on the current situations.”
Included in the district’s 28 page reopening plan is a sheet in which parents can perform weekly or daily symptom checks on children before sending them to school. Copeland informed the Board of Trustees and the few parents in attendance that he had questioned Carbon County Public Health over the daily screening checklist for parents which is included in the plan.
“It kind of looks like you could take any elementary campus in the winter time and a third of the kids would have some of those symptoms,” Copeland said.
Symptoms included on the checklist include; cough or shortness of breath, a fever of 100 degrees Fairenheit or more, sore throat, chills, new loss of taste or smell, muscle or body aches, congestion or runny nose, or unusual fatigue.
Copeland added that neither the school district nor the individual schools would be making any decisions in regards to the quarantine of students.
“The quarantine decision will basically be made by county health,” said Copeland. “We will report information to Carbon County Health. They, then, will assess and make that decision.”
According to the superintendent, public health had informed him that one students confirmed to have the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in a class or cohort did not necessarily mean that the entire class or the school would need to be quarantined. If, however, cases were to increase then there would possibly be reason to quarantine the cohort.
In the case that a student did report feeling ill, the district nurses will have areas set up in which to separate healthy students from those reporting symptoms associated with COVID-19 while they waited for their parents. Later in the meeting, Copeland confirmed that how that separation would look would vary depending on the school as some facilities were larger than others.
One issue that will be addressed by the district is that of virtual education. In original guidance from the WDE, and included in surveys sent out to parents, the option for virtual education stated that students would need to sit in front of a device from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. with a 30 minute break in the day.
“Well, none of us thought that was even possible, really. Now they have allowed us to choose an option that’s called Classroom Based Virtual Instruction,” Copeland said. “During the survey, one thing that was fairly consistent as a weakness of that spring plan—which was frankly an overnight, thrown together thing so I’m not trying to justify any of that—but one of the things is not a consistent platform. So, we’re going to require all of our teachers to use the Schoology platform.”
Later, Wendy Barkhurst asked if the district had considered using platforms such as Google Classroom or Canvas. According to Barkhurst, both platforms had been used by other districts including Carbon County School District No. 1 and were more user friendly and parent friendly. Copeland replied that the district went with Schoology because they already had the platform and would provide training for staff and parents.
In the case that students or their families chose the virtual education option, there would likely be a principal from the district assigned to oversee the entire virtual program and teachers who took on the added workload of virtual teaching would likely receive a stipend.
“I feel like that is a much better option. The state is allowing us to do that under an emergency rule because, in the past, we could not offer virtual education for our students unless we went through a whole application process that was quite an involved process,” said Copeland. “So, now we can and they remain our student. This district still gets the funding for those students but it’s a virtual program for students that would choose that.”
Abby Raymer asked both Copeland and the Board of Trustees if the quality of education from in-class to virtual could be maintained. While Copeland stated that the teachers would work to maintain that quality, Chairman James Sewell stated that he believed there were elements of in-person education that could not be carried over.
“My take on that, as a parent, is that’s unreasonable. It’s not going to happen. There’s no way my kid sitting at home is going to get the same quality of education as he is in school. Or my daughter. It is just not reality because so much of communication is nonverbal, you’re with your friends so you deal with tough situations. There’s so much outside of academics that you learn at school,” said Sewell. “Those are not replaceable.”
While there was concern over the virtual education aspect of the plan, masks were still an issue for some parents. Zephyr Patzer asked the Board of Trustees what level of masks would be required and what consequences would be in place for those students who did not wear them.
“I’m concerned that we’re just going to put cloth masks on our kids and then freak out when there’s an outbreak because they don’t stop viral particles,” said Patzer.
Copeland responded that guidance from the state and county had been to use cloth masks. In regards to if students did not have a mask or forgot their mask, there would be both disposable and cloth masks available for use by students. It was reiterated throughout the meeting that masks were to be required, though Carbon County Public Health provided some leniency in the case of elementary students.
“They seem to realize that it’s not practical to try and keep masks and be the ‘Mask Gestapo’ for 1st and 2nd grade,” said Copeland.
Results of the parent survey were also shared by Copeland. While the complete results will be shared on the CCSD2 website at a later point, the superintendent focused on some highlights. A total of 223 parents representing 298 responded to the survey with 70 from Saratoga Middle High School, 95 from Saratoga Elementary School, four from Medicine Bow Elementary School, 22 from Hanna Elementary School, 26 from Hanna, Elk Mountain and Medicine Bow High School and 80 from Encampment K-12 School.
Of those responses, 92 percent supported regular handwashing, 89 percent supported increased sanitation, 46 percent supported daily or weekly screening of students, 43 supported restricted access to campuses, 32 percent supported social distancing between staff and students, 27 percent supported masks for staff and students on buses or between classrooms, and 20 percent supported daily use of masks in the event of a confirmed case within the school or the school being partially closed.
After nearly an hour and a half, the board unanimously approved the document to be sent to the WDE for review.
The next regular meeting of the Carbon County School District No. 2 Board of Trustees will be at 6 p.m. on August 17 at the Central Office in Saratoga.