At the main entrance to Thunder Basin High School, signs are posted reading “VISITOR ALERT! STOP, Help Keep COVID-19 Out of Our Facility. If you are experiencing any flu-like symptoms: FEVER, COUGHING, SHORTNESS OF BREATH, DO NOT VISIT TODAY.”
Changes to expect in wake of COVID-19 Outbreak
Editor’s Note: This story is the first in a three-part series addressing Campbell County School District’s (CCSD) plans to reopen schools in less than a week as teachers, staff and students prepare to return after schools closed last spring.
Campbell County School District (CCSD) will reopen its 23 schools to an estimated 8,698 on Aug. 24. Along with reopening schools, CCSD expanded their online schooling options to include students grades six through 12.
Following CCSD Board of Trustees’ unanimous adoption of its Reopening Plan July 15, teachers, administrators and staff are scrambling to get their classrooms and facilities ready for students to come back to school while limiting exposure to COVID-19. The plan was drafted by the CCSD Reopening Task Force, who devised it in conjunction with state public health restrictions and guidelines.
Thunder Basin High School (TBHS) Principal and a member of the task force, Terry Quinn, said the 25-page document explains the policies and procedures that both staff and students will adhere to this 2020-21 school-year and which follows the Smart Start Guidance that Wyoming Department of Education and State Superintendent Jillian Balow released July 1, which proposed a three-tiered approach to school re-openings.
Tier one allows onsite learning for all students. Tier two allows students to attend onsite school on a rotational basis for two-to-three days of the week while completing online assignments for the remaining school days. While tier three prohibits students from attending school onsite at all, rather classes will be taken online only.
CCSD, like many other districts, will be opening in Tier One, Quinn explained, empathizing with the concerns of many students and parents across the district about the logistics of operating under the guidelines as well as concerns about personal safety. He said Monday that he had noticed a dramatic increase in first day-of-school jitters after reviewing results from the Reopening Plan Feedback Survey that was open to parents, students, staff and other concerned community members following the board’s adoption of the plan.
Governor Mark Gordon last signed public health orders Wednesday to keep current public health restrictions for schools in place through the end of August in Wyoming. His Tenth Continuation of State Public Health Orders allows Wyoming schools to reopen, so long as they follow a series of requirements that Quinn said could alter several aspects of student life on campus, per the Governor’s website.
In light of changes CCSD has made to meet state standards, here’s everything students and parents should know before school resumes on Aug. 24.
Students planning to ride the bus to school should plan on social distancing and potentially sharing a seat with their sibling, when necessary, for the semester. The reopening plan states that students may be assigned seating arrangements on the busses, in which members of the same household would be seated together to minimize exposure via direct contact. With this, busses will be loaded from back to front and unloaded from front to back.
Less populated busses should be able to practice social distancing, Quinn said, while more crowded busses may require masks.
All CCSD busses will also be fogged with sanitizer after each route and will be providing personal protective equipment, or PPE, like hand sanitizer and wipes to riders.
Students who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 on the bus will be isolated in their own seat and returned home immediately.
Basic school procedures
Orientation for CCHS students will be held from noon to 1 p.m. on Aug. 18 – 20 while TBHS orientation is scheduled for Aug. 17 – 19 from 7 – 8p.m.. However, Quinn explained, orientation will only be open to new students, including the freshman class, transfers and foreign exchange students.
Quinn said that this shouldn’t cause too many issues since class schedules are available for viewing on the district’s grading site Powerschool. Concerns regarding an individual student’s schedule can be taken up with their school’s respective guidance counselor, he said.
Also, lockers will not be available for use at the beginning of the school year as part of the effort to decongest the hallways, he said.
The district’s reopening plan further dictates that students will be expected to report directly to their classrooms to avoid gathering in the hallways or commons when arriving at school. Breakfast will be provided in a sack that each student can pick up at designated grab-and-go stations where their names will be recorded, and their accounts charged.
CCSD will not require students to wear face coverings full time; however, state orders require face coverings to be worn when in situations where six feet of distance cannot be maintained. The reopening plan reflects this, stating that masks will be worn when social distancing is “not feasible.”
Busses, lunchrooms, libraries, gyms, computer labs, STEM labs, small classrooms, hallways and restrooms could be areas in which students will be required to wear face coverings, Quinn noted.
“No one wants to see the kids wearing masks for eight hours straight,” he said. “But if you’re in some of those tighter spaces with a whole lot of people, we’ll require some kind of face covering to be worn.”
Quinn went on to say that students who repeatedly refuse to wear a mask can be enrolled in the district’s new online learning platform called Schoology, which was implemented to centralize the CCSD curriculum, providing additional options to students who are in quarantine or who may be uncomfortable attending on-site school.
Before the pandemic, online schooling options were available for students in kindergarten through sixth grades, this year virtual education will be offered to all students in the district. Though online schooling has gained relevance since the outbreak of COVID-19, Balow noted during a press briefing Wednesday that the several districts across the state have utilized online schooling options, for years. Because of this, she said, Wyoming is familiar and comfortable with online education and assessment.
“Virtual education for Wyoming students is not new business,” she said. “We know how to assess them, and it looks much the same as assessing students who are in brick-and-mortar.”
Parents are being asked to screen their children before sending them to school each day in order to reduce transmission of existing COVID-19 cases.
State Public Health orders do not require schools to conduct daily screenings, tests or any form of contact tracing; however, the Smart Start Guidance Packet highly recommends screening students upon arrival.
CCSD’s current plan also requires teachers to survey students for symptoms of COVID-19, which include a fever of 100.4 F°, headache, cough, sore throat, fatigue, shortness of breath, congestion or runny nose, new loss of taste or smell, diarrhea and nausea or vomiting.
Several schools within the district have also implemented infrared scanners to temperature test students in a timely manner, Quinn explained.
If a TBHS student is exhibiting symptoms, Quinn said, they will be directed to one of the two symptom screening room on campus, where they will wait to be picked up by their parents.
Each school in the district will provide at least one screening room that will be available to staff and students experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, in order to minimize their exposure to others. Symptomatic students will complete their classwork via Schoology until they’re allowed back, after being cleared by a medical provider.
Open campus will be offered at both high schools this year.
Secondary students will be served bagged lunches in the commons consisting of an entrée, side, fruit serving, veggie serving and a drink, according to Quinn. Secondary schools will also divide their student body between two scheduled lunch periods to reduce the number of students in the commons at one time.
The “a la carte” option, in which the lunchrooms typically sell sandwiches, salads, granola bars, baked chips and string cheese, will not be provided at the beginning of this school year at any of the schools in Campbell County, Quinn added, and the $5 Super Meals will also no longer be sold inside secondary school cafeterias at this time. Rather than manually punching in their ID numbers, students will be given a scannable card to purchase their lunches with, similar to the ones used by elementary school students.
Elementary school lunches will proceed almost exactly the same way they used to, Wagonwheel Principal Eric Stremcha explained Tuesday. The only change being that lunch will be served in a bag rather than on trays.
Offsite lunches will continue to be provided by schools throughout the district, students or parents can place orders online through CCSD’s website the night before by using their Pay School account.
Stremcha explained that recess also looks quite similar to past years, despite the pandemic. He further explained, at Wagonwheel, the staff has decided to move recess from the early morning to a later time in the day so that students can report directly to class to be screened. Schools will allow only one grade level at a time to utilize the playgrounds in order to reduce crowd sizes. That is, he said, except for lunch recess which will be attended by two grade levels at a time.
Staff began working from school again this week and are available to answer addition questions about individual schools. Additional information about the upcoming school year can be found on the CCSD website.