NCSD provides updates on school re-openings, address face coverings - Casper, WY Oil City News
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NCSD provides updates on school re-openings, address face coverings

(Dan Cepeda, Oil City File)

CASPER, Wyo. — The Natrona County School District have provided some updates on their plans for re-opening school in the fall and a summer school program which begins on July 24.

NCSD noted in their Sunday, July 12 update that one of Wyoming’s existing statewide COVID-19 related public health orders requires the use of face coverings in schools when six feet of social distance cannot be maintained.

That health order is currently in effect through July 15. The portion of the order pertaining to schools reads as follows:

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In the update, NCSD did not state whether face coverings would be required if a statewide health order mandating their use in schools is not in effect. However, Natrona County Health Officers Dr. Mark Dowell and Dr. Ghazi Ghanem told the NCSD Board of Trustees during their Wednesday, July 8 work session that they recommend the use of face coverings as one of the best ways to try to keep schools open in the fall.

NCSD said that their plans for schools will take statewide health orders, guidance from Natrona’s public health officers, the Wyoming Department of Education’s “Smart Start” reopening guidance and Board of Trustees direction into account.

The Board of Trustees began to review the district’s draft “Smart Start” re-opening plan, which NCSD is required by the WDE to develop, during Wednesday’s work session.

“Due to time constraints, the entirety of the draft plan as published on Board Docs was not reviewed or discussed,” NCSD said. “The remainder of the draft document will be presented to the Board of Trustees, and live-streamed for public viewing, at an upcoming meeting (date/time TBA).”

NCSD explained that the re-opening plan must address how the district will engage in communication, safety and wellness, school operations and instruction and technology.

The state’s Smart Start guidance describes three tiers of school opening status. The first tier allows schools to fully re-open with safety guidelines in place. Wyoming is currently considered to be in this status with schools able to offer summer programs to students in-person.

The second tier refers to a hybrid situation in which some students may be allowed to receive in-person instruction, but schools also offering more virtual instruction. The third tier refers to a full closure of in-person instruction.

“Since the onset of school building closures due to COVID-19, a question laying heavy on the forefront of all of our minds has been, ‘what will school look like in the fall?'” NCSD said. “Targeted efforts have been underway to proactively plan for a variety of options for school operations with a critical understanding of a need for continuous adaptability while ensuring quality services and education remains.”

The district said their four key objectives are as follows:

  • re-open schools during summer and fall in a “a safe, responsible, and healthy manner following all state and local requirements”
  • “maintain a continuity in learning across a variety of educational settings”
  • align fiscal and personnel resources in a manner able to facilitate school re-openings
  • “communicate effectively with all stakeholders (includes listening, responding, and delivering information)”

NCSD added that they are aware people may still have a number of questions about what school re-opening will look like and attempted to provide information that is currently known.

The district noted that a summer school program open to all students will be held from July 27-Aug. 14. NCSD added that “schools will be open in the fall.”

“Brick and Mortar (traditional) instruction and Natrona County Virtual Program online instruction will be available to meet the needs of all students and school families,” NCSD said. “Social Distancing with a distance of 6ft or greater will remain in effect whenever possible.”

“In the case of COVID19 within a classroom or school, NCSD will ensure we are prepared to effectively and efficiently transfer instruction, as applicable, for identified settings based on the guidance of the Casper-Natrona County Health Department.”

NCSD said their work on the Smart Start reopening plan is on-going.

“We are working dedicatedly on NCSD’s Smart Start Reopening Plan, while remaining as flexible as possible, in order to ensure decisions made reflect the most up-to-date information, current health orders, guidance as provided by local and state officials, and the feedback of our students, parents, and community members,” the district said. “We will directly communicate with staff, students, parents, and our community when information is identified and the plan moves from a draft to a finalized version.”

“There is still a lot of work to be done, and we continue to welcome feedback from our stakeholders as we work together – as quickly as possible – to prepare for fall.”

Superintendent Mike Jennings said in the update that successfully reopening schools will depend on cooperation among the community.

“We know the success of our schools and students depend on the partnership and collaboration between schools, staff, families, and our entire community,” Jennings said. “We are incredibly grateful for this partnership and want to express our sincere appreciation for the support and dedicated work of students, staff, school families, the Board of Trustees, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department, and the entire community.”

NCSD said they will offer focus group opportunities for teachers, school nurses, school administrators and other staff “to provide feedback and engage in collaborative conversations as we work to identify processes and next steps.”

“A survey will be shared in the very near future for students, parents, and guardians to provide feedback as we prepare for reopening schools,” the district added.

People can also directly send feedback regarding school re-openings to This feedback will be shared with NCSD leaders and the Board of Trustees.

“At the end of the day, this remains a very difficult situation for all,” NCSD said. “None of us ever imagined we would be here today. We understand your frustration, we feel your disappointment.”

“The intent of the Smart Start reopening plan is to open schools, keep them open, and provide a high-quality learning environment for all students to progress in their learning while maintaining our commitment to the safety and health of all students, staff, and the community. We value your voice and perspective as we work together to navigate these challenging times. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we work together in our shared goal of continuing educational excellence in Natrona County while remaining committed to safe and healthy environments for all.”

The Latest Statistics from the Wyoming Department of Health:

What to do if you are feeling sick: In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, the Casper-Natrona County Health Department says that people who are feeling sick or exhibiting symptoms should contact their primary physician.

If you do not have a primary care provider, and live in Natrona County, please contact the COVID-19 hotline, operated by the Casper-Natrona County Department of Health. The line is open Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 5:00 pm 577-9892. Hotline services are intended for Natrona County residents and may not be able to provide specific information to persons calling from out of county.

Officials ask that you please do not self-report to the Emergency Room. Persons experiencing problems breathing should call 9-11.

For general inquiries and non-symptom related questions about COVID-19, please contact the Casper-Natrona County Health Department via email:

  • Practice Social Distancing by putting distance between yourself and other people. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
  • Clean AND disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.

A list of area closures attributed to COVID-19 are available here.