TORRINGTON – The Goshen County School District Board of Trustees discussed the new quarantining policy at its monthly meeting on Tuesday.
The item which caused the most discussion during the meeting was not on the agenda until shortly before it began. According to Chairman Zach Miller, a board member requested to have the new quarantine protocol added to new business for further discussion.
The protocol was created by a subcommittee consisting of Miller, Vice-Chairman Michael Sussex, and Trustee Matt Cushman and was approved by the board on Oct. 12.
The reason for the protocol was to give parents multiple options for their students if they become a close contact.
At the time it was approved, the mask mandate prevented it from being enacted. The policy has now been implemented as of Nov. 1 after the mandate was rescinded during the special meeting on Oct. 28.
During public comment, a few community members claimed there was an incident at the football game in Torrington on Friday, Nov. 5, which exposed a possible issue with some of the wording in the protocol.
In Option 2 of the GCSD No. 1 COVID-19 Close Contact Protocol, which allows close contact students who are not showing signs of symptoms attend school while wearing a mask, it states “Any student in after-school activities will also have symptom screening completed by the sponsor /coach. When they are participating in a physical activity, masking will not be required, but the student would be required to mask when not involved in physical activity.”
However, there is no mention of students who are attending after-school activities.
Ty Correll told the board the protocol does not specifically relate to the incident at the football game.
“According to what I see, [the protocol] has nothing to do with after-school activities or football games which are, last time I checked, outdoors,” Correll said.
After the meeting, Superintendent Ryan Kramer stated he could not comment on the individual issue since it relates to a student and possible discipline.
Aubrie Matthews also addressed the incident and said it has been a distraction for the students in the high school.
“All the students at Torrington high school can talk about or think about is this ridiculous event that the police were actually going to arrest the student,” Matthews said.
Torrington Police Chief Matt Johnson was asked to comment on the police’s involvement with the matter. Johnson declined to comment due to it involving a juvenile, but he said the police department does not believe in using law enforcement for health issues.
Matthews added the high school staff should not be involved in such situations.
“I expect to see this drama from the high school students. It is ridiculous when the drama is coming from the staff,” Matthews said. “You guys need to get that under control ASAP or people are going to start pulling their kids out of school.”
The board continued the discussion on the protocol during new business. Trustee Sarah Chaires said there needs be a clarification in the protocol.
“I think in light of recent events it’s important to clarify some of the verbiage as long as we are forced to have this quarantine protocol in place,” Chaires said.
The board debated whether or not to change any parts of the protocol. Miller said the initial idea for the protocol was to be a first step to removing the mask mandate, and Sussex added the specific line regarding after-school and physical activities could have been an oversight by the committee.
“I think that we need to have something that’s uniform and clear for everybody across the district to understand,” Sussex said.
Cushman, who was on the committee to make the protocol, called it a mess and suggested to remove it.
“We could discuss it all night long and we’re not going to figure it out,” Cushman said.
Trustee Carlos Saucedo recommended to send the protocol back to the committee to fix it and the rest of the board agreed. Chaires was also added to the committee as well.
In other action items, the board approved the posting of the new position for a District Technology Job Coach. Previously, the board accepted the Digital Learning and Virtual Education grant from the Department of Education for $483,240.85. Part of the grant was allotted for the new position.
The responsibilities include providing assistance to staff in all schools and provides help for virtual and in-person teachers.
There were concerns from the public on if the funding had to do with keeping students in quarantine and online. Curriculum Director Jeff Fuller said the money has nothing to do with quarantine as it is focused to be used to bolster the districts current virtual program.
Superintendent Kramer added during his report funding for the school is heavily impacted by in-person attendance, and the district is not involved with any aide based on quarantining students.
“I’m not saying that something like that never exists somewhere in the nation possibly, but it does not exist in Goshen County,” Kramer said.
In terms of the total funding from the grant, Fuller said the District received almost 50% of the total amount ($100,000,000).
The board also approved to expel a student based on the disciplinary hearing which took place in executive session before the start of the meeting.
Other actions in new business included acknowledging the receipt of two petitions from the past 12 months, approval of the proposed 2022-2023 school year calendar, approval of the purchase exceeding $5,000 for the purchase of a new football scoreboard for Lingle-Fort Laramie schools, approval of district renewal with the child nutrition coop for USDA foods and commodities for 2022-2023, and approval of purchase exceeding $5,000 for the purchase and installation of wireless microphones for Southeast schools.
The consent agenda was also approved, but the item to accept a grant from the Wyoming Department of Health in the total amount of $55,650 for the purpose of employing district COVID-19 contact tracers for the 2021-2022 school year was pulled for further discussion.
Kramer said the grant was for two positions, and they would assist school nurses with the new close contact protocol as well as other areas in which they may be needed. Kramer also said ideal candidates would have experience in the medical field and/or recordkeeping such as working with Excel.
According to Kramer, the nurses need any help they can get.
“There right now are nurses that are in dire need of assistance for many other situations in their schools,” Kramer said. “There would definitely not be a lack of services that these individuals could provide.”
Kramer also added the position was already posted and they were only voting on accepting the grant.
The board accepted the grant by a vote of 6-3. Trustees Miller, Saucedo, Chaires, Kerry Bullington, Katherine Patrick, and Taylor Schmick voted yes. Trustees Sussex, Cushman, and Dylan Hager voted no.
During information and proposals, Garrett Schmitt was recognized for graduating from Platte River School.
Torrington High School Principal Chase Christensen introduced Schmitt and acknowledged the uniqueness of the school.
“As was discussed when working to Platte River School, graduates would come in many forms,” Christensen said. “Tonight, we’re able to celebrate a graduate from Platte River School. A mark of success for this young man as well as the alternative school concept in Goshen County School District #1.”
After Schmitt’s recognition of graduation, Matt Daily and Katrina Gifford from LaGrange Elementary on Orton-Gillingham training to teach phonics and phonemic awareness to the students.
Daily, who teaches kindergarten and first grade in a combined classroom, showed examples of his students work and they’re rapid progression in the first nine weeks of school.
“Normally in kindergarten… the standard is they need to be able to read and write one sentence of their own by the end of the year, and they are doing this at the end of first quarter,” Daily said.
Gifford, who teaches fifth and sixth graders, said she is starting to teach her students morphology since they already have experience in Orton-Gillingham.
In other reports, Trustee Saucedo presented the resolutions from the Wyoming School Board Association (WSBA) Delegate Assembly. The board agreed with all of the recommendations of actions by the assembly for the resolutions.
The next regular meeting will be Dec. 14 at 7 p.m.