TORRINGTON – The Goshen County School District board met for its regular meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 14.
While the board had moved on from the mask mandate, several community members used the public forum time to address more concerns since it was enacted.
Danielle Murphy was one of the parents who addressed the board about her concerns with the mask mandate and quarantine protocols.
“You do not have the authority to quarantine students,” Murphy said. “You cannot refuse a child their education without legal documentation.”
Murphy also said she sent her own religious exemption form to the school district instead of the required form, and it was rejected by Superintendent Ryan Kramer.
Erica Winebrenner also spoke to the board about how her kids are spending too much time on their computers due to being quarantined.
“We are shoving our children into computer screens and tablets in order to teach them,” Winebrenner said.
The other issue Winebrenner stated was two of her five kids had to quarantine on the second day of school which resulted in her missing two weeks of pay. Shortly after, another one of her children also had to quarantine.
“That is four weeks without pay for you all to school my children in front of a screen. That is not okay,” Winebrenner said.
Wyoming state District 3 Senator Cheri Steinmetz also addressed the board and said she recently had a meeting with Wyoming State Health Officer Alexia Harrist M.D. and Interim Director of the Wyoming Department of Health, Stefan Johansson, about school quarantine protocol.
According to Steinmetz, Harrist and Johansson said an investigation by the department of health takes place and an order is signed by a health official. Steinmetz said anything from the school is just a recommendation. She also added all school districts received forms to give to parents stating a student has been in contact, but it is not a mandate.
“We talked about the confusion that it is causing all across the state… to the school boards that is putting everyone in a precarious position,” Steinmetz said.
Marie Flannagan said some board members gave their personal opinion when the community needed their professional opinion.
“We were asking for you guys to represent the law, because that’s your job.” Flannagan said. “Your responsibility is only the law.”
Trustee Dylan Hager added his name to the public forum and told his fellow board members there were several negative consequences to their decision to enact a mask mandate. Hager included a broken community, students feeling physically violated for wearing a mask, a petition to remove members from the school board and threats toward Public Health as some of
Hager said the 5-4 vote to approve the mask mandate by the board does not accurately portray the views of the community. Hager said if each member had to vote based on the portion of the population they represent, which would be about 1,500 people, then the vote would have gone in the opposite direction. Hager added those who said at the work session they would not honor a vote from the public should not be on the board.
“You don’t deserve having a seat at this table,” Hager said.
After a standing ovation by most of the crowd for Hager, the board transitioned to old business.
The board approved to accept revisions to district policy 6141.41 regarding curriculum development, as well as revisions to district policy 4117 regarding the certified personnel evaluation system.
In new business, the board approved the piloting and purchasing of Eureka math curriculum materials for fourth grade, special education contract with Educational Service Unit-13 (ESU-13) for student day services and contracting with Institute for Multi-Sensory Education (IMSE) for additional Orton-Gillingham staff professional development services.
The board also approved the purchase of three multi-process welders and one multi-process welder with tig kit for Torrington High School for $12,919.19 and the purchase of two multi-process welders and one multi-process welder with Tig kit for Lingle-Fort Laramie High School for $10,072.469. Torrington Principal Chase Christensen said the price for Torrington’s proposal is higher because they are asking for one extra multi-process welder.
THS was also approved to purchase a bovine birthing and ultrasound trainer and bovine fetal models for $12,197.00, while LFLHS was approved for the purchase of just a bovine birthing and ultrasound trainer for $9,999.00. All of the items are funded by the Perkins Grant. Superintendent Kramer added any school who wishes to use the school’s equipment may do so, and there is funding available for Southeast High School to purchase the same equipment if necessary.
After approving the job description for an accompanist, the board discussed the continuation of the Goshen County indoor track and field team. Coach Mark Simms was in attendance to update the board members on last year’s inaugural season. Simms said there were over 30 kids on the team and expects to have more since more students will know about the program now. Simms also said competitions were limited last year but expects to do more this season. The indoor track and field season will run from January to the beginning of March right before soccer and outdoor track and field begin. The board approved the continuation of the program for the next season.
The board transitioned from action items back toward a conversation on masks and quarantine during topics for discussion.
Trustee Michael Sussex said the board needs to look at other school districts plans for quarantine and try to devise a better strategy in Goshen County. Sussex said he and Kramer came up with an idea to form a committee specifically for it. Trustees Matt Cushman and Zach Miller indicated interest in joining the committee with Sussex and Kramer. Chairman Mark Jespersen said they should also include Goshen County Health Officer Ted Church M.D. as well.
Sussex also asked about new teachers who have to quarantine but do not have enough accrued sick time. Kramer said there are avenues in place to help such as letting them go into the negative and a superintendent’s leave. Business Manager Marcy Cates said teleworking is available for certified staff. Miller said there should be another option to create a balance to allow teachers to still take a day off. The board agreed this could be another topic the committee can discuss.
Miller also used the time to talk about threats he has received from the community as a result of his decision. Miller said physical threats towards him and his family were very offensive and had no place in politics or the school district. Miller also said he became a board member to help students.
“I just want to make it known that I appreciate serving on this board and will continue to do so for the rest of my time here.”
Kramer rounded up the meeting with his notes including the current enrollment numbers. According to Kramer, 19 students dropped, 18 are still deciding, eight are waiting on documents, and 10 have decided to move to virtual learning. Kramer added of the 19 students who have dropped out of the school district, two cited concerns of COVID-19 in the schools as the reason. Kramer will provide updates on enrollment each month.
The board will convene on Thursday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. for a work session for board leadership governance training with the Wyoming School Board Association (WSBA)
The next regular meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.