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NCSD sticking with optional mask policy as district awaits guidance on Biden’s vaccine mandate


CASPER, Wyo. — The Natrona County School District reported a total of 516 student and staff quarantines or isolations due to COVID-19 between September 1 and September 10.

The district is sticking with its optional face mask policy, in which face masks are encouraged but not required when social distancing cannot be maintained, NCSD Director of Public Relations Tanya Southerland said in an email on Monday, September 13.

“[F]ace coverings are encouraged when you cannot maintain social distancing and we especially are asking for individuals to stay home when they are sick, consult with their healthcare provider, and not report to school, work, or a district facility,” Southerland wrote.

President Joe Biden last week announced a new policy that is expected to affect thousands of Wyoming workers and will require employers with at least 100 employees to require employees to either get vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing.

The district employs about 3,000 people and could potentially be subject to Biden’s new vaccine policy. However, Governor Mark Gordon has criticized the new policy, calling it “an egregious example of big government overreach” and leadership of the Wyoming Legislature on Friday expressed support for the governor and Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill pursuing legal action to try to prevent enforcement of the new rules.

Biden on Friday pushed back against claims from some Republican governors that he is overstepping his authority by issuing the new policy, according to the Associated Press.

Southerland said the district is awaiting further guidance in regard to the Biden administration’s new COVID-19 policy.

NCSD began the school year with the optional face mask policy, subject to change if local, state or federal health orders required students or staff to wear face masks. Southerland noted Monday that with no such health orders in place, masks remain optional. People can check NCSD’s COVID-19 guidelines online.

Southerland said that the district will continue working with the Casper-Natrona County Health Department on response to COVID-19.

Face masks are required on NCSD school buses, pursuant to a federal mandate. Southerland said that there is currently no shortage of bus drivers due to COVID-19 isolations or quarantines, though the district is hiring bus drivers and other positions across the district. People can find NCSD job openings online.

NCSD is providing bi-weekly updates on impacts from COVID-19 to school facilities with this information posted online. The district is reporting COVID-19 isolations and quarantines based on reports from the Casper-Natrona County Health Department, healthcare providers, parents and guardians and staff members.

339 students and 31 staff members have had to quarantine due to exposure to COVID-19 so far this school year.

Isolations due to probable or confirmed COVID-19 cases have included 120 students and 26 staff.

Student isolations have been reported in the following numbers at the following NCSD facilities:

  • Bar Nunn Elementary – 6 
  • Casper Classical Academy – 3 
  • Centennial Middle School – 6 
  • Cottonwood Elementary – 4 
  • Crest Hill Elementary – 3 
  • CY Middle School – 7 
  • Dean Morgan Middle School – 17
  • Evansville Elementary – 1
  • Fort Caspar Academy – 1
  • Kelly Walsh High School – 19
  • Lincoln Elementary – 8
  • Manor Heights Elementary – 2
  • Midwest Schools – 2
  • Natrona County High School – 14
  • Paradise Valley Elementary – 3
  • Park Elementary  – 4
  • Pineview Elementary – 4
  • Poison Spider Schools – 1
  • Roosevelt High School – 8
  • Sagewood Elementary – 4
  • Summit Elementary – 2
  • Verda James Elementary – 1

The 26 staff isolations have been reported as follows:

  • Central Services Facility and Extended Campuses – 7
  • CY Middle School – 1
  • Dean Morgan Middle School – 2
  • Fort Caspar Academy – 1
  • Kelly Walsh High School – 3
  • Natrona County High School – 5
  • Pineview Elementary – 1
  • Roosevelt High School – 2
  • Sagewood Elementary – 2
  • Southridge Elementary – 1 
  • Woods Learning Center – 1

“If your student is required to isolate or quarantine, the Natrona County School District will provide remote learning and instruction,” NCSD notes. “If you are a staff member and are required quarantine or [isolate], please contact your direct supervisor or Associate Superintendent of Human Resources and District Services, Verba Echols.”

“The Natrona County School District does not contact trace for close contacts, test students for COVID-19, or have the authority to quarantine or isolate individuals as related to COVID-19. If you receive a phone call/message from the Casper-Natrona County Health Department, please return their phone call/message. If you have any questions regarding the process of identifying what constitutes a close contact, questions about quarantine or isolation, or COVID-19 testing please contact the appropriate health officials at the Casper-Natrona County Health Department at 307-577-9892.”

The Wyoming Department of Health provides COVID-19 case, variant, death, testing, hospital and vaccine data online. The department also shares information about how the data can be interpreted. COVID-19 safety recommendations are available from the CDC.