Wyoming school re-opening plans due Aug. 3; no plan won't prevent school re-openings - Casper, WY Oil City News
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Wyoming school re-opening plans due Aug. 3; no plan won’t prevent school re-openings


CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming Superintendent Jillian Balow says in a Tuesday, July 28 memo to superintendents of school districts across the state that school districts are asked to submit their “Smart Start” re-opening plans by Aug. 3.

Wyoming Department of Education staff have “begun reviewing submitted plans based on the requirements in the Smart Start Guidance Document,” the memo states.

School districts are asked to prepare these plans ahead of the start of the fall semester of the 2020-2021 school year amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wyoming Department of Education are requesting the plans so they “can plan for contingencies during the school year, such as a ‘hold harmless’ from a funding reduction immediately if a health order closes schools for any duration.”

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While all school district are asked to outline re-opening scenarios in the “Smart Start” plans, Balow’s memo states that she “does not have the authority to prevent schools from opening simply because a district
does not submit a plan.”

Another reason the WDE is requesting the plans is so they “can best provide support through professional development and technical assistance during the upcoming school year.”

“Further understanding the individual Smart Start plans enables Superintendent Balow to advocate for schools as they continue to provide a quality education to all students,” the memo adds.

Balow’s memo also notes that face covering and social distancing requirements are up to State Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist and local health departments rather than the WDE.

“The Wyoming Department of Education’s (WDE) role in mentioning health practices is simply to provide assistance to local school districts as they prepare to operate this fall,” the memo states. “Anything in the Smart Start Guidance related to health practices that is inconsistent with a current or future local or state health order is to be disregarded in favor of the prevailing health order.”

Wyoming’s statewide public health orders requires masks in schools when six feet of distance cannot be maintained. The orders have been extended through Aug. 15.

Balow adds that the WDE is recognizing three categories of distance learning. That includes “remote, virtual and the new classroom-based virtual education.”

The Wyoming Department of Education will provide further information on the new classroom-based virtual education category in future updates.

Balow noted that the Wyoming High School Activities Association have issued their COVID-19 guidance to allow the six fall high school sports to commence in August.

The memo also notes that 500,000 cloth face coverings will be delivered to schools around the state as they prepare for the fall semester.

“These masks are in addition to all other PPE requests that the WDE has with Governor Mark Gordon’s office,” Balow’s memo adds. “The masks will be delivered to each local county emergency manager, who will work with the school districts to coordinate the final distribution.”

Smart Start Review

Plans and questions can be emailed to laurel.ballard@wyo.gov.
Distance Learning Options
Remote Education, Virtual Education, and Classroom-Based Virtual Education remain options for schools
to utilize as they deem appropriate for the 2020-21 school year. Further guidance is available here. The
application and assurance statement for Classroom-Based Virtual Education is now available on the
Virtual 307 Policy page.
Funding Update
Wyoming is receiving just over $32.56 million in ESSR funding. The application is currently available
to school districts in the WDE Grants Management System (GMS). These funds are available through
September 30, 2022; contact Jess Benning with any questions. The GEERS funding received by the
Governor’s office includes $803,305 that is earmarked for school districts. The WDE will work with the
Governor’s office to distribute these funds as well through the GMS system. School districts will be
notified when the application process begins. You can contact Shelley Hamel with questions regarding
the GEERS funding. Finally, the WDE has requested $42.2 million for technology, $1.68 million for school
nutrition and food service programs and $7.26 million for Personal Protective Equipment. The WDE has
received preliminary approval for all of these requests. All funds will be distributed pursuant to a signed
Grant Agreement and must be expended by December 30, 2020. Further information on participating in
this funding is forthcoming. For questions on this funding, contact Trent Carroll.
Moving forward
A recording of this meeting is available upon request. The next COVID-19 Update with the WDE is set for
8:30-9:30 a.m. MDT on August 10. The WDE will continue to answer questions regarding operating under
the current state health orders. WDE staff remain available by email or telephone to discuss any aspect of
a district’s adapted learning plan at any time.

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: covid@cnchd.org

  • 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.