ROCK SPRINGS – After weeks of meetings and ever-changing expectations and guidelines, Sweetwater County School District Number 1’s Re-entry (Smart Start) Task Force has prepared its recommendations, which will be presented to the school board on Wednesday. When school starts on Aug. 17, The district is aiming to provide in-person instruction but be prepared to switch to online options if necessary.
“I look forward to seeing the familiar faces of our staff and students back in our buildings this fall, and am confident that, in implementing the processes and procedures outlined in the re-entry plan, Sweetwater County School District No. 1 will be doing everything in its power to provide a safe and enriching learning environment for our staff and students this coming school year,” Superintendent Kelly McGovern said in a press release.
The school board meeting, which will start at 6 p.m. July 15, will include a presentation of the re-entry plan and discussion of additional topics highlighted by the state including communication, safety and wellness, school operations, and instruction and technology. The public is invited to watch the virtual meeting and budget hearing, which will be aired live at https://youtube.com/ITSCSD1. Public comments can be submitted prior to 4 p.m. Wednesday at https://forms.gle/k3cci9sjc5X2tGy69. The meeting agenda is available at http://www.sweetwater1.org/july_board_meeting.
“The recommendation, which I will present to the Board of Education at its meeting on July 15, 2020, is to re-open schools for in-person instruction coupled with options for virtual education. The re-entry plan, with its focus on safely bringing students back into the classroom, aligns with state and local health orders and the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Wyoming Department of Health, and the Wyoming Department of Education,” McGovern said.
The superintendent stressed that the physical, social, and emotional well-being of staff and students is their highest priority, and the district will continue to update and refine the re-entry plan as more information becomes available and as recommendations and restrictions evolve.
ABOUT THE TASK FORCE AND RE-ENTRY PLAN
The proposed plan explains, “The district assembled a task force to support an effective school reopening process. Careful reopening plans will be for naught if parents or educators are not confident about the measures in place. Where schools open with significant modifications to schedules, classes, or logistics, minimizing chaos and confusion will depend on clear and consistent communication.”
McGovern thanked task force members for their time and efforts.
The re-entry plan stated it is “grounded in data and guidance provided by local and state health officials, the Wyoming Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This framework includes hygiene, physical distancing, and other public health considerations. The COVID-19 pandemic has closed schools in Sweetwater County School District No. 1 since March 23, 2020. The task force will review current health and safety guidelines, survey data from District parents and staff, and provide consideration for the re-entry plan as a community of stakeholders with expertise in their respective fields.”
Following a framework previously outlined by Wyoming Superintendent of Schools Jillian Ballow, there are three tiers of instruction – one for in-class instruction, one for fully virtual, and one for a hybrid of the two. Under current conditions, the district will be able to host in-person instruction.
Parents will be expected to screen their children daily for symptoms of COVID-19 before sending their children to school. They should ask if the students, or anyone else in their household, have displayed symptoms such as a cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, a sore throat, chills, new loss of taste or smell, muscle or body aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, congestion or a running nose not related to seasonal allergies, or unusual fatigue.
Schools are emphasizing the importance of staying home when ill, and any student reporting an illness will be sent home.
Under the plan, masks will be worn by students when required by local health officials. The district otherwise encourages students to wear a mask in one-on-one and close proximity situations. Personal protective equipment will be provided if needed, but it may be recommended you have your own as necessary.
WHAT ABOUT ACTIVITIES?
When it comes to state expectations for activities such as athletics, the plan states, “Each school district will operate student activities in a way that maximizes social distancing, use of face coverings, and appropriate hygiene measures. When social distancing is not possible, staff and students should wear face coverings to the greatest extent possible. For athletics, face coverings should be worn by coaches, staff, officials, parents, and spectators whenever six feet of separation cannot be maintained. Players should refrain from wearing face coverings during strenuous activity.”
All students, coaches, and sponsors will have temperature screenings by temperature kiosks upon entry into any district school or facility.
“This equipment has the capability to assist the district post-COVID and our school safety efforts. The temperature kiosks are handsfree for employees and students alike. They are tabletop- or-ceiling mounted. Students or employees stand in front of the tablet (they look like an iPad) a few feet away for 1-2 seconds and a reading comes through,” the plan said.
The electronic record will allow Sweetwater No. 1 to track students in real time and with discretion. The idea was to have students enter through multiple school doors so entry would not be delayed and hopefully not need staggered school start times.
“Any student, coach, or sponsor with a temperature reading of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher; or reports COVID 19 symptoms or exposure will not be allowed to participate. The district will always error on the side of student and staff safety and if showing a repeated temperature reading of 100.4 degrees F or higher, they will not be permitted to enter district facilities or grounds, be in attendance of, or participate in the day’s practices or events. Confidentiality will remain a priority,” the plan states.
A coach will contact parents if students are unable to participate in a practice or event.
School districts will follow the guidance provided by the Wyoming High School Activities Association.
IN CASE THERE ARE POSITIVE TESTS
In the event of a confirmed case of COVID-19 within a school, the Sweetwater No. 1 will immediately notify local health officials, and these officials will help administrators determine a course of action for their child care programs or schools.
A student or staff members testing positive for COVID-19 must be isolated at home for a period of time, based on current recommendations. Other students and staff members who came into close contact with the positive case will be quarantined for 14 days, or as otherwise directed.
Guidance regarding close contact will be provided by the Wyoming Department of Health or the local health department. A school or building could also be closed by state or local public health directive or order for a two- five-day period, or longer if conditions warrant, to sanitize the facility and to conduct an investigation.
When it comes to student attendance, if students are sick, in quarantine, or having any COVID symptoms, the school requires them to stay home. “Communication with our principals and nurses is essential so that absences are coded correctly and do not count against the student,” the plan states.
When it comes to staff leave, Sweetwater No. 1 stated “district policies for sick leave, personal leave, and sick bank govern staff leave. For a staff member that is experiencing COVID symptoms, been mandated to be quarantined, or other circumstances related to COVID, Sweetwater School District No. 1 will continue to comply with Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and all EEOC and ADA compliance laws.”
In case of a resurgence of the coronavirus in local and neighboring communities, the district will follow directives of the county health officer, state health officer, and local or state orders and utilize strategies appropriate for the district and community.
For a copy of the task force’s plan, go to http://www.sweetwater1.org/reentry_task_force_20202021 or see the story at rocketminer.com.
RECREATION BOARD MEETING
The district will also host a Recreation Board meeting and budget hearing beginning at 4 p.m. July 15.
The agenda is available at http://www.sweetwater1.org/recreation_board_meeting, and public comments can be left at https://forms.gle/dq9ZWzGPtwDrgGfG9 until 4 p.m. Wednesday.
The meeting will also be live streamed on YouTube at https://youtube.com/itscsd1.