GCSD attendance policy temporarily suspended amid COVID-19

GOSHEN COUNTY – Goshen County School District No. 1 voted unanimously to temporarily suspend the district attendance policy due to the novel coronavirus pandemic during an Aug. 24 special meeting.

The now-suspended District Policy 5113 states “All students are expected to be in attendance for regular classes.” To successfully complete a grade level, elementary and secondary school students could miss no more than 10 classes. 

Given state, local and school district recommendations for students to stay home when showing symptoms of COVID-19, the policy is not applicable for what Superintendent Ryan Kramer called “a unique year.

“In other years, we reinforced a really intense requirement on attendance, which we know definitely impacts student learning,” Kramer said. “We don’t discount that in this situation. But we also do not want to put a heavy burden on families. If a student has a runny nose or a cough, we would prefer that they not come to school.”

Kramer referenced the district’s first positive case of COVID-19 at Torrington High School and the student’s and their parents’ decision to stay home and get tested when they started showing symptoms. The action, he said, might’ve prevented additional exposure.

He acknowledged board member Mark Jespersen’s concern that in rescinding this policy, the district personnel would still reach out to students with a significant number of absences and reiterate they care and want them in school.

“As an administrative school staff, we still realize that this is extremely important for attendance to be verified and to be universal as much as possible,” Kramer said. “But this really allows us to curtail the consequences that are associated with it.”

Students and educators who are absent due to illness or potential virus exposure can still participate in class remotely, Kramer said.

Kramer provided an update to the board regarding face coverings and capacity at fall indoor and outdoor sporting events and extracurricular activities.

Face coverings will be required at indoor events, increasing capacity to 250 people. Still, 30% capacity must be allocated for visiting fans.

“Which means the difference between all students only being able to have maybe mom or dad to being able to have as many as, seniors have six [guests attend] at Torrington High School,” Kramer said.

Board member Christine Miller asked whether student athletes determine who attend extracurricular events or if they are open to the public. Kramer said for indoor events, student athletes allocate their seats but outdoor events should be open to “every individual that we’ve had in the past to attend those games.” 

Kramer said he filed for an exemption for outdoor events prior to Governor Mark Gordon’s Aug. 15 order allowing up to 1,000 people or 50% venue capacity to congregate at outdoor events. Originally, the exemption would allow up to 1,000 individuals at THS outdoor events and 750 at Lingle-Ft. Laramie High School and Southeast High School with a face covering requirement.

The board submitted a diagram to Goshen County Public Health to determine whether 1,000 people could gather in these venues without face coverings due to the ability to maintain at least six feet of social distance between groups, Kramer said. Now, they are waiting for state approval.

There is also a plan in place for schools in THS’s conference to provide live streams of games, so parents and those interested can watch student athletes play in away games. The 1A conference, which includes L-FL and Southeast, do not have such an agreement. 

In other business, the board unanimously voted to purchase technology for remote learning, including TruTouch interactive screens and accessories, Redcat Classroom Access audio enhancement systems and SWIVL video systems in the total amount of $173,550.25, funded by the CARES Act.

These purchases are necessary, Kramer said, as 125 students are participating in remote or virtual learning this semester.

He also acknowledged the technology could prove useful even after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is something that as we look even past what may be COVID-19 related to the convenience of educational platforms right now,” Kramer said. “It will be probably necessary moving into the future to offer these types of learning opportunities for families.”

The board also unanimously approved a revised contract with STAR Autism Support in the amount of $7,546 in addition to a contract with TinyEYE Therapy services for speech language services for district students through the 2020-21 school year. The district will also contract Barker & Associates LLC for the replacement and installation of a new controller for the Torrington Middle School intercom system in the total amount of $17,834 and rewrite their copier lease agreement with Copier Connection at a rate of $3,098 per month.

GCSD’s next regular meeting will be Sept. 8 at 7 p.m., which will be available for public streaming on Youtube Live.  


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