Campbell County School District (CCSD) will reopen schools on August 24, per a unanimous decision by the CCSD Board of Trustees during a Zoom meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Earlier that morning, the CCSD Board of Trustees held a workshop meeting where Superintendent Alex Ayers and Deputy Superintendent Kirby Eisenhauer presented the official reopening plan for the fall. Ayers and Eisenhauer worked with directors and principals from across the district to create a plan that meets social distance guidelines in keeping with current public health restrictions.
Eisenhauer said CCSD approved their plan after analyzing the district-wide survey they sent to parents last month. CCSD reported that 76% of parents wanted to send their children to school on-site. A similar survey was given to CCSD staff, of which 86% also wished to see schools reopen this fall.
Concerned father Trevor Larson gave public comment during Wednesday’s Zoom meeting to express his thoughts that reopening is vital for children to learn effectively. English teacher Timothy Bessette also called in to commend the board for their efforts to complete the plan while asking that they maintain a realistic mindset when planning for classroom situations.
The board considered the public comments then stated a few of their own including concerns about lack of required temperature testing and regulating students utilizing online school opportunities. Still, the board of trustees unanimously voted to approve the overall plan.
Current state-issued orders allow schools to reopen, but this could be changed to reflect the Wyoming Department of Health’s recommendations.
As such, CCSD’s plan allows for several COVID-19 scenarios, depending on where the state stands by the third week of August; most notably, whether public health orders will shift to prohibit in-person schooling. To prepare for various scenarios, CCSD has implemented a three-tiered plan to reopen schools in keeping what Ayers calls the district’s mission statement of “teaching effectively, learning successfully” in spite of the pandemic.
The first tier allows for “on-site” learning that would resemble school “as close to normal as possible,” as explained in the reopening document released by the school district yesterday.
In this tier-one scenario, students would attend school Monday through Friday in person. Protective measures such as screening, increased cleaning and disinfecting, new sanitation methods and social distancing would be implemented “where possible.”
In the event that stricter public health orders are enacted, the district would move on to the second tier, or the “blended” approach to education. The tier-two plan would require students to physically attend school on a rotating basis only two or three days out of the week and to complete online classes on the remaining weekdays.
CCSD Director of Technology Brian Knox said at the workshop meeting that the district has achieved several technological advancements to offer multiple formats for delivery. Under this approach, teachers will be equipped to perform online school processes for their offsite students while simultaneously teaching half of their students in person.
If the circumstances dictate that CCSD close schools, Knox said, this time the district is prepared.
In this third-tier, worse-case scenario, Knox said that CCSD has implemented a new system to make distance learning more productive for both teachers and students.
“We want the students and parents to know that if we did have to revert back to online schooling, it wouldn’t look like it did last year,” he said at the workshop. “At that time, we didn’t have an adapted learning plan in place, but we definitely will this year.”
In case of a school closure, he said, the district will employ a single site to centralize online learning processes rather than using multiple platforms that don’t connect with the district’s grading site, Powerschool.
“Hopefully, we’ll never have to go back to online schooling,” CCSD Board of Trustees Chairwoman Anne Ochs said during the regular meeting, “but if we do, we’ll be able to do it the right way.”
At this time, CCSD administrators are planning to reopen schools on August 24 on a tier-one basis. Students will be expected to report directly to their classrooms upon arrival, wash or sanitize their hands and go through screening for COVID-19 symptoms like fever, coughing, sore throat, fatigue, body aches, congestion and nausea.
In the event that a student is experiencing any of these symptoms per the newly adopted plan, the student would be quarantined in the nurse’s office along with anyone they’ve come in close contact with that day. The student exhibiting symptoms will then be sent home for the time period that’s been recommended in guidelines set by state and local health officials.
Though CCSD has released their plan, these decisions could be reversed due to new state-issued orders or recommendations from state and local health officials, Eisenhauer clarified.
The district continues to look into new devices, processes, rules and regulations that should be implemented to ensure the health and safety of all students and staff.
Before approving the plan, the board encouraged their reopening committee to introduce infrared thermometers to each classroom, so students will be temperature tested at least once per day.
For now, the district has given the people what they want, under the agreement that mass changes are always only a state order away.