CASPER, Wyo. — Mike Jennings officially took on the role of superintendent for the Natrona County School District on June 8, stepping into the shoes of retired Superintendent Steve Hopkins.
Jennings steps into the district’s leadership role in a challenging moment for the school district as they prepare to re-open schools for the fall semester of the 2020-2021 school year amid the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.
Summer school is underway across the district and schools are implementing COVID-19 safety precautions such as requiring students to wear face coverings when six feet of distance between individuals cannot be maintained.
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Similar safety precautions are planned for when schools re-open this fall. NCSD is offering two options for students in the fall: return to classrooms for traditional instruction or study from home through NCSD’s virtual learning program.
Jennings has provided a letter to families in the district to help address questions they may have about NCSD’s fall operations. That letter reads as follows:
Dear NCSD School Families,
I hope this letter finds you and your families safe and well. As we approach the beginning of a new school year, I know that you have many questions, concerns, and ideas about what this school year will look like. One of many things I have learned about living in a COVID-19 world is the disease and the response to the disease is not static. NCSD has many goals we are working diligently to achieve together as outlined in our Strategic Plan. However, the immediate goal at the forefront of my mind, and everyone’s mind, is how to open schools safely and responsibly for students and staff this fall.
It is our primary goal to open schools and be able to keep them open safely for students and staff. That is why it is critically important to follow state and local health orders in place.
The world is a much different place than it was a few months ago, and uncertainty and anxiety can be overwhelming. Our lives have been impacted in ways we never anticipated or imagined. As a result of these significant disruptions – personally, socially, economically – it is more important now than ever for all of us to come together as we embark on this new school year.
Staff has been working on developing and deploying the NCSD’s Smart Start Reopening Plan. The plan provides school leaders and staff with consistent guidance on how to open schools. All district facilities and school plans will follow the Natrona County School District’s (NCSD) Smart Start Reopening Plan. Work will continue with building leaders implementing the reopening plans for each individual school. The guidance is consistent, however, operationalizing may look different based on your school size, programming, etc. There are areas where the protocols and systems will be developed to meet the needs of individual schools. For example, one classroom may be able to social distance 6’ or more and would allow for face coverings to be removed by students and staff. A different classroom may not be able to social distance and face coverings must be worn by students and staff.
Many of these questions and more can be answered in NCSD’s Smart Start Reopening Plan and/or the COVID-19 FAQ – Parents/Students document. We are dedicated to providing as much specificity as possible when answering these important questions but we must remain flexible, as applicable, so we can effectively adapt to the evolving nature of this situation.
While this upcoming year has some unknowns and certain challenges, I am confident in the exceptional abilities and dedication of our students, staff, school families, and community to come together and make it a great year for all. I want to thank you for your continued dedication to the students of Natrona County and in helping us keep our schools safe and healthy as we navigate a reality that none of us could have ever imagined.
I look forward to seeing you in the fall, stay safe and well.