GOSHEN COUNTY – Goshen County School District No. 1 is down in enrollment from last school year, from 1,661 to 1,615, according to Superintendent Ryan Kramer.
At the Sept. 8 school board meeting, Kramer provided current enrollment figures, along with projections for how many students would be enrolled in each school, based on those from the previous year.
A total of 96 students submitted paperwork for homeschool, down from 109 last year, Kramer said.
“It is down from last year and we can attribute that to COVID related things, not necessarily to total students in the county, but in relation to those learning face to face,” he said.
The total number of enrolled students, 1,615, includes students enrolled in the district’s remote or virtual learning options as well as in-person.
GCSD elementary and middle schools saw a more significant drop than in high schools. Trail Elementary is down from 250 students to 238 this school year, Lincoln Elementary enrolled 88 first graders and 80 second graders, with projections for 98 and 88, respectively, based on last year’s count. Lingle-Fort Laramie Middle School enrolled 76 of a projected 81 students, Southeast Junior High enrolled 40 of a projected 44 and Torrington Middle School enrolled 268 of a projected 280. Lingle-Fort Laramie High School enrolled 83 students, more than the projected 73, Southeast High School enrolled 75 of a projected 79 and Torrington High School enrolled 338 of a projected 344.
Platte River School, GCSD’s alternative high school, is in its inaugural year with 15 students.
Kramer said the 46 student drop in district-wide enrollment will affect funding for the 2021-22 school year, on top of the additional 10% budget cuts Gov. Mark Gordon asked districts to consider.
“We won’t know until the end of the school year really the exact dollar amount,” he said.
The National School Lunch Program is reverting to the program from last summer, the Summer Food Service Program through Dec. 31 through the U.S. Department of Agriculture amid COVID-19.
Business Manager Marcy Cates said all students will receive breakfast and lunch free of charge starting this week, including students learning face-to-face as well as remote or virtual students. Parents can bring kids in to pick up a bagged breakfast and lunch. Menus are posted Friday’s in the Torrington Telegram, on the district website, goshen1.org, and on Facebook.
“We hope to be serving a lot more kids,” Cates said.
The board addressed a petition submitted by GCSD parents concerned with the prospect of students wearing masks throughout the school day. The document, submitted during a previous meeting on Aug. 11, opposed a mandatory mask policy for students, teachers and staff, with reasons for why it should be a personal choice instead of policy.
After discussion, the board decided not to take action on the petition.
Board Member Mark Jespersen said he appreciates the parents who took the time to create the petition and State Sen. Cheri Steinmetz (R-Lingle) who spoke about and provided copies of the Wyoming Constitution at a previous meeting. He questioned whether the district is implementing a mask mandate or following state health orders.
“Current state health orders require anytime students or teachers are under six feet apart that a face covering must be worn at a K-12 institution,” Kramer said.
According to Kramer, the other route the district could have taken to eliminate the need for masks was to follow a hybrid model for the school year, in which students spend half of their time in the classroom and half online.
Kramer said plexiglass dividers have been implemented in classrooms since last Friday. He added that if state health orders were to change, so would the district’s policy.
Board Member Rod Wagner said he does not agree with the mask mandate, a position he held at previous meetings, and he believes the authority rests with the school board as elected officials to determine such policies rather than state or county health departments.
“The people of Goshen County elect us to make these decisions for them,” he said.
Masks are still required at extracurricular events to ensure the maximum number of supporters are able to attend. Kramer said at a THS football game, despite the 1,000 person limit, there was a list of names to gain access.
“There was a concern we’d exceed that 1,000, and we wanted to make sure family members of those football players had an absolute for sure ticket in,” he said.
Both student representative Sera Glass and board member Kerry Bullington raised concerns about educators and adjustments they’re making amid COVID-19.
“Teachers are doing a great job but they’re tired,” Bullington said. “Are we still looking at things to take off their plate as we’ve added more to deal with the COVID-19 response?”
Kramer said there are changes to teachers’ duties and schedules being considered. The district is also working to implement more mental health resources for teachers and students in conjunction with Prevention Specialist Lynette Saucedo.
“It is a major concern, September being suicide awareness month,” he said. “We want to make sure mental health is one of our main components that we take notice of for our students and staff in this stressful time.”
Kramer and other board members also expressed gratitude for teachers and staff.
“We’re on week four, I know our teachers and staff are at a very high stress level and I think about them each day in regards to that,” Kramer said.
In other business, the board unanimously approved a contract with Dirt Road Wife Photography of Yoder for district photography services, as well as to hire Ashley Curry as a third grade teacher at Trail Elementary.
The next regular board meeting will be Oct. 13 at 7 p.m.