Most Parents, Students Feel Comfortable Going Back to School, Survey Shows

After receiving his schedule at orientation, a student navigates the hallway of TSJH with this father.
After receiving his schedule at orientation, a student navigates the hallways of TSJH with this father.

After receiving his schedule at orientation, a student navigates the hallways of TSJH with this father.

 

Editor’s Note: This is the second piece in a three-part series reporting on CCSD’s reopening process for schools this fall.

When it comes to sending their children back to school this fall, many parents in Campbell County are prioritizing education and socialization over the risk of potentially spreading COVID-19, according to an informal survey conducted by County 17 on Aug. 12. Of the 413 people who responded,  338 said they felt safe about their children returning to Campbell County schools, while 74 said they did not.

Like many other districts across the state, CCSD is reopening Aug. 24 under tier one of Wyoming Department of Education Superintendent Jillian Balow’s Smart Start Reopening Plan that allows all students to attend school on-site.

Although the district is reopening under the state’s designated primary tier, schools are prepared to transition to either tier two, in which groups of students would attend school on-site on a rotational basis two-to-three days per week, or tier three, in which students would complete classes online only, according to the plan.

Many of the parents surveyed who said they felt unsafe with the reopening process were less concerned about the virus than they were about the schools’ newly implemented guidelines and restrictions.

In the survey’s comment section, masks, screenings and increased cleaning protocols were stated as a common concern that parents like Angie Beaza, who decided to switch over to online schooling, considered a deal breaker.

A student and his mother discuss the layout of Twin Spruce Junior High's two-story building with an office assistant.
A student and his mother discuss the layout of Twin Spruce Junior High’s two-story building with an office assistant.

“I’m choosing to homeschool because the kids shouldn’t feel stressed at school,” she’d written in the comments. “And they shouldn’t be exposed to harsh chemicals as often as I’m worried, they will be now.

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On the other hand, the majority of parents who responded to the survey said that they were willing to follow guidelines in order to get their children back in school.

After last year’s sudden switch to online schooling, Paula Royce said she wouldn’t consider homeschooling her son again.

“My son hated every minute of online school,” she said. “He wanted the interaction with his peers before summer.”

Both Campbell County High School (CCHS) and Thunder Basin High School (TBHS) are inviting all freshmen, as well as students who’ve transferred from other schools, to their respective orientations, and are dividing the students into groups by last name. Sage Valley Junior High (SVJH) and Twin Spruce Junior High (TSJH) are following the same procedure with their new group of seventh graders.

Principal of TSJH Dana Lyman said that face coverings were required to be worn by both students and parents during orientation in the building’s reopening plan.

“Everyone has been pretty understanding so far,” Lyman said. “We all want the kids to feel comfortable moving up to junior high.”

Making the transition from sixth to seventh grade, Araelia Corely attended orientation at TSJH Tuesday and said that she was much less concerned with the requirements, guidelines and restrictions than she was about navigating the “huge” building.

Araelia Corely practices opening her new locker.
Araelia Corely practices opening her new locker.

Corely searched the school’s math wing for her locker as she admitted that she was slightly nervous about starting junior high but was also extremely excited. As far as she’s concerned, she hasn’t given much thought to masks or other preventive protocols, which were pretty rote to her at this point.

The teen had spent most of her summer in Washington, where she’d become used to wearing face coverings and practicing social distancing.

“You have to wear a mask everywhere in Washington,” she said. “I don’t think it will bother me if I have to wear one in school every now and then.”

STEM Lab teacher kris Thorne shows off the new infrared thermometer that schools provided in each classroom.
STEM Lab teacher Kris Thorne shows off the new infrared thermometer that have schools provided in each classroom.

STEM Lab teacher at TSJH said that she’s had a lot of creative problem solving to do before the beginning of the year. She noted that though her large classroom would allow for simple social distancing, her hands-on subject could present some issues with COVID-19 transmission prevention given the nature of the class.

Thorne said that plexiglass between computers will keep students from needing masks, but in order to work in groups or partners, students may need to use face coverings.

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Hands-on teachers like her, she explained, will need to rely heavily on sanitation products to prevent transmission, but she will also offer things like disposable gloves and hand sanitizer to minimize exposure.

“We can make it work,” Thorne said. “There will be some trial and error, but we’ll figure things out.”

CCHS Senior Angel Nava agreed that the school year would, in one way or another, work itself out.

He’s looking forward to his last year in school and has adopted a positive attitude about CCSD’s three-tiered reopening plan, he said.

This will be his last year of playing high school football, so if anything, he’s more concerned that any potential school closures would mean once again cancelling sports. He’s going to do this part, he said, to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“I feel like if everyone follows instructions the year won’t be that bad,” Nava said.

He’s also willing to adapt to small changes, like wearing face coverings or attending lunch in smaller groups, in order to maintain the most “normal” year possible.

“It’ll be annoying at first,” Nava said of the guidelines and requirements. “But I’ll be able to get used to everything.”