GOSHEN COUNTY – Ryan Kramer, Goshen County School District No. 1 superintendent, updated the Board of Trustees on a change to tier 1B of the district’s smart start operational plan at their regular meeting on Nov. 10.
In the original plan, tier 1B, in which the district started and is currently operating, outside youth organizations did not have access to school buildings. Kramer decided to allow such groups in a review of the plan, Kramer said.
“Many school districts across the state have a rec center that’s not directly related to the school district where these activities can take place,” he said. “We don’t have a rec center. We have our school buildings that act as rec centers for our activities.”
Along with the update, Kramer told the board the spread of the coronavirus throughout the community and, in turn, school is concerning.
“(Contact tracing) is going to be the difference from us going from in-person to either hybrid or virtual,” he said. “If we do nothing, I can guarantee you based on the spike we had the last week and a half, we will be forced to do something. It’s the absolute last thing I want to do, but we’re going to be forced because of increases we’re seeing.”
As of press time Tuesday, there are 18 cumulative COVID-19 cases within the GCSD community, nine of which are active. Throughout Goshen County, there are 198 active cases, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
Kramer said contact tracing has shown the spread of the virus in school is very minimal due to implemented strategies, including face coverings, frequent handwashing and social distancing. Such strategies, namely face coverings, are not being used in public as much as in school, leading to the significant uptick in cases, he said.
“If you had asked me a week and a half ago, I thought we were doing fantastic,” Kramer said. “We were moving along, it was manageable, then in the last two weeks it has mushroomed. I have extreme concerns for our numbers.”
He said he is concerned by attendance data regarding both students and staff, including a lack of substitute teachers available.
“The concern is, are there going to be enough adults to serve students in the building,” he said.
The district is concerned about winter sports, as a positive case was already detected in a middle school activity.
“These (COVID-19 mitigating) strategies are the difference between having a season and not having a season,” Kramer said.
At GCSD, school nurses have taken on the duties of contact tracing using forms and notification systems.
The board’s Nov. 10 meeting marked the last for outgoing board members, Christine Miller, Jeff McClun, Rod Wagner and Ryan Clayton. GCSD presented them with gifts to thank them for their years of service to students and the community.
Student representatives updated the board on what has been positive about students’ experiences this year. Clara Peterson of Southeast High School, Callie Fritzler of Lingle-Fort Laramie High School and Sera Glass of Torrington High School had similar sentiments, saying they are happy to be able to attend school in person and to participate in extracurricular activities. They also thanked their teachers for their work throughout the unique school year so far.
“A lot of students have realized how much work teachers are putting into us as students, watching how they have to manage Zoomers and people in-person,” Glass said.
The board discussed the upcoming conference of the Wyoming School Board Association (WSBA) where board member Carlos Saucedo and board chair Katherine Patrick will represent GCSD. Resolutions that will be voted on at the conference include changing the compulsory attendance age from seven to six years old, and from 17 to 18 years old, moving discussion of school safety concerns to executive sessions during district board meetings, allowing school districts to increase or decrease the number of members on their boards without a reorganization process and proposing a statewide one penny sales tax to fund public education.
If approved at the WSBA meeting, WSBA will then bring the penny tax idea forth to the state legislature for consideration, Christine Miller said.
Director of Curriculum Donna Fields addressed the board via Zoom about Eastern Wyoming College dual and concurrent classes.
In response to questions from families throughout the year about concurrent courses, she said courses normally need to be approved by July 31 for consideration from the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE).
“The WDE requires we turn in extensive syllabi and alignment to state standards,” Fields said.
Courses also must be taught by Wyoming-certified teachers, which tends to cost the district $8,000 for every concurrent course, according to Fields, and the district is unable to charge tuition for any additional courses.
Southeast Schools agriculture teacher Jay Clapper presented to the board about student learning that cannot be measured by ACT or WYTOP testing.
Clapper, who has taught for 28 years, uses portable farm concepts, including poultry barns, bee keeping and planters to “bring the farm to the kids.”
Clapper presented alongside his student, Justin Clayton, who participates in the adopt-a-sow program, which gives members the opportunity to receive a hut with a bred sow which they feed and care for.
“It’s a great opportunity and experience. I didn’t know anything about this, but Clapper helped me out, and I really appreciate that,” Justin Clayton said.
The board removed an item from the consent agenda regarding a donation of $9,500 for a memorial at Torrington High School in honor of educator Juel Afdahl, who passed away earlier this year. They voted unanimously to table the item until they can review and possibly revise the policy for public gifts to schools.
The board also voted unanimously to approve the revision to the district’s policy for sex offenders on school property, which now bans registered sex offenders from GCSD’s campuses.
A revision to the policy on suspension and expulsion of students was also unanimously approved.
The Board of Trustees will convene for its next meeting, with four new members, on Dec. 8 at 7 p.m.