SCSD No. 1 Outlines Health Plan As New School Year Approaches

SCSD No. 1 Outlines Health Plan As New School Year Approaches

The Sweetwater County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees discussed its plan in regard to health protocols on the cusp of the new school year.

ROCK SPRINGS — Open communication with health officials, school nurses, and families will be the key to keeping Sweetwater County School District No. 1 students safe as the new year begins in about a week.

Superintendent Kelly McGovern told the Board of Trustees tonight that she hopes SCSD No. 1 won’t have to revert to the restrictive protocols of 2020 due to state-mandated COVID-19 orders. But she added the district’s Smart Start plan to open schools in the midst of the pandemic last year was effective and successful.

McGovern outlined several circumstances that would have to take place for the district to go back to the Smart Start plan.

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The first involves the percentage of positivity rate in the district and the average number of cases per 100,000 people. This aligns with the color-coded chart the Wyoming Department of Health puts out every two weeks.

“Sweetwater County has not moved a whole lot through the pandemic even up to right now. Our positivity rate is higher than what (the state) would like.”

SCSD No. 1 Superintendent Kelly McGovern

Hospitalizations and overall healthcare capacity are other aspects the district will consider before returning to 2020 protocols. Keeping a close eye on school and community spread rates will also factor into the district’s decision.

Last year contact tracing was conducted by the school nurses, but this year it will be conducted by the state.

“It means that this year the process could be a little bit slower than it was last year, but nonetheless it provides good information,” McGovern said. “What happens out in the community does have a direct effect as to what comes into the schools.”

The district will also consider overall class coverage and the wellness of staff members to make sure that classes are still being taught in an open-school environment.

McGovern said the administration and school nurses will meet with county public health officials tomorrow to examine any other measures that need to be taken before school starts.

Board Recommendations

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon and State Public Health Officer Dr. Alexia Harrist have both stated there will be no new health orders mandated before the start of school.

A new Wyoming law also requires 48 hours notice before a health order can be adopted to allow time for public comment on the decision. It also limits Public Health Officer Jean Stachon to no more than 10 days of a local mandate without the approval of the county commissioners, city councils, or the district health board.

Trustee John Bettolo suggested that without current health orders it’s important to keep families informed about the situation with a monthly report at each board meeting. Trustee Stephanie Thompson said she would like to see the practice of weekly updates on positivity rates in each school continued this year.

Trustee Max Mickelson said “if I felt our community would support it, I would support the kids wearing masks. But I’m going against my own personal beliefs because the community has made it clear that they don’t want their kids wearing masks.”

Mickelson added he will feel like he failed in his duties as a school board member if a student or staff member gets infected with COVID-19 and becomes “seriously ill or God forbid dying because we didn’t want to enforce a mandate on people.”

But he also said it’s not the board’s duty to enforce mandates. It’s the board’s duty to follow the law.

Last year Wyoming’s health orders changed 28 times according to McGovern, “so every two weeks the footing underneath us was constantly moving.”

The board agreed that it would be ready for an emergency meeting to discuss changes in its current resolution if needed.

“We’ll start school out with the way it goes, and everybody keep their fingers crossed,” said Board Chairwoman Carol Jelaco.