TORRINGTON - The Wyoming Department of Education released its Smart Start guidelines for school districts to return to the classroom this fall during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The guidelines establish a three-tier system, with tier 1 being the least restrictive option. Tier one allows schools to be open to students with some new health practices, such as social distancing or the use of masks. Tier two is a combination of “in-person instruction with possible intermittent closures and quarantining of schools and staff.” Tier three is the most restrictive, with school being closed to students and moving online.
Currently, WDE Superintendent Jillian Balow said, the state is at tier one.
“I'm confident that we will be successful, not only in reopening schools as we knew them, but also transforming our school system to better address the challenges that we faced and incorporate some of the successes and lessons that we learned,” she said. “That's the Smart Start guidance document. This framework lays out the requirements, the recommendations and the considerations that will help ensure that schools not only open safely for the 2021 school year, but that quality education continues throughout the school year, no matter the health environment.”
Goshen County School District No. 1 Superintendent said he’s hoping that the district will enter the school year in tier one, but that’s still up in the area given a surge in statewide case numbers. But, Kramer said, the district is hoping to have its plan ready in the coming weeks.
“We're going to have our plan that will be a little bit more specific, in relation to the three tiers,” Kramer said. “We actually will go with the three tiers. And we'll have kind of sub tiers within those. As we kind of take a look, some of the things require us to be a little bit more specific at the district level, just for our comfort and being able to communicate in the best way possible to our community.
“I'm hopeful that we'll be able to enter in tier one. I was much more optimistic, as the governor was, too, before last week. We were on a pretty good progression towards some really good things prior to last week, and last week kind of changed the outlook.”
Balow said the WDE’s plan at this time is to have students in school building come the fall semester, but the WDE will rely school districts to make the best decisions for their communities.
“Health officials, school boards, educators, parents, and even students will make important decisions in the coming weeks,” she said. “Communities know best how to address your own unique challenges. As I said, requirements, recommendations and considerations are what is laid out in the framework, and the guidance lays out requirements, which are few, and come from the state level. We'll be checking those through assurances provided by school districts, and through our accreditation process.
“Recommendations should be carefully considered at the local level in collaboration with stakeholders in education and county health officials. The considerations are just that - they're considerations for teachers, administrators, parents, healthcare professionals and others.”
Stay with the Torrington Telegram for more information on what the Smart Start guidelines will mean for local schools.