ROCK SPRINGS – The weight of changes and extra measures brought on by the coronavirus continue to be felt in Sweetwater County School District No. 1. The Board of Trustees heard updates on COVID-19 developments including ongoing safety and cleaning measures, the burden that staff is bearing, and the potential impact of budget cuts brought on by state budget deficits.
During the public comments portion of the meeting, many parents questioned how long students would be required to wear facial coverings when social distancing of 6 feet was not possible. School district officials answered that the requirements came from the state, and as long as it was mandated by the higher authority, Sweetwater No. 1 would comply.
Trustee Max Mickelson noted the importance of complying with state guidelines – not just those related to the coronavirus. He said they are vulnerable to a lawsuit if their state-required preparations are found to be insufficient, and such a case could provide a financial windfall.
“It’s like hunting manatees,” he said.
STARTING BUDGET DISCUSSIONS
The board decided to create a cost savings task force. The intention is to collect input on what changes might be made and better inform the public on the challenges that will result.
Board Chairwoman Carol Jelaco noted that Gov. Mark Gordon is asking all school districts to consider a voluntary 10% budget cut.
She said they were seeking clarification on what that meant. For example, she said the district had about 282 less students, or about 5% of their student body, which would mean a 5% decrease in the funding based on student.
Jelaco added that a 10% cut would equal about 90 teachers, which she said would equate to three-fourths of Rock Springs High School staff.
Board members said it is important to start discussions in advance of the next legislative session and make it clear what cuts they will accept and where they will hold the line.