CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon said during a press conference on Wednesday, July 8 that he wants to see kids go back to schools in the fall but that he also supports giving flexibility to school districts “that after all know best.”
President Donald Trump threatened to withhold federal funding to states if schools don’t reopen in the fall on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press. A Wyoming News Now reporter asked Gordon during the press conference whether Trump’s stance would influence Wyoming’s approach to opening schools.
The Wyoming Department of Education released a “Smart Start” guidance document that outlines three tiers of re-opening scenarios at the beginning of July. School districts are required to submit plans for how they would operate under each of the three tiers.
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Wyoming Superintendent Jillian Balow explained the three tiers in a press release when the guidance was announced:
• Tier I is where we are right now – schools are open to students with some new health precautions such as social distancing or the use of masks..Superintendent Balow
• Tier II is a combination of in-person instruction with possible intermittent closures and quarantining of students and staff.
• Tier III is the full closure of school buildings to students at the county or state level, like what occurred at the end of last school year.
Gordon said Wednesday that he supports efforts to get schools reopen, but does not want the state to force such decisions upon individual districts.
“Wyoming is a state which values local control,” he said. “We want to make sure that we have the flexibility that allows school districts that after all know best. We can’t expect Washington to know what’s best for us on every particular event or eventuality.”
“What we’ve tried to do is lay out a plan that envisions kids that go back to school fully, which is kind of what the Trump administration is asking us to do, but provides for the opportunity that kids can still learn at the same rate even if they for some reason aren’t able to be in the classroom.”
Gordon said that the state will also work to expand broadband access around Wyoming and will work to ensure “that school children have more access to equipment” to support virtual student learning.
“It is, I think, essential that we try to have our kids back in school as much as possible, but I don’t want to endanger anybody and I want to give our local school districts the tools they need to do the right thing for the people that elected them,” Gordon said.