TORRINGTON – The Goshen County School District (GCSD) Board appointed a new chairman at Tuesday night’s meeting after accepting the resignation of former Chairman Mark Jespersen.
Before the meeting started, the board went to executive session to discuss district real estate.
After the meeting was called to order, Superintendent Ryan Kramer presented the resignation to the board to adopt into the agenda. Jespersen was not present at the meeting. The resignation was approved by the board, and Zach Miller was voted to be the new chairman while Michael Sussex was voted to fill in as vice chairman.
The board also approved a new quarantine protocol which was created by Miller, Sussex, and Trustee Matt Cushman who were tasked with finding a more effective protocol after receiving criticism on the current policy.
Miller said the Utah State Board of Health’s guidelines on quarantine protocols was used as a template when creating the protocols for the school district.
Some community members asked why they looked at Utah’s guidelines instead of Wyoming’s. Sussex clarified Utah had a more concrete plan than Wyoming’s which gave them a starting point when creating their own.
“The state of Wyoming, their quarantine protocol has kind of left us swinging in the winds… and they are straddling the fence on where they’re at,” Sussex said. “This is not a blanket quarantine protocol this is selective, and it gives the parents the option to make a choice in regard to the quarantine of their student which is honestly what we’re shooting for.”
According to the GCSD School Level Close Contact Protocol, the options are:
The close contact not showing signs or symptoms wears a mask for the duration of the quarantine time frame (14 days from exposure), while at school or work.
The close contact not showing signs or symptoms must continue to self-monitor for symptoms throughout the day for 14 days from exposure.
Daily symptom screening one time per day (morning) with school staff or school nurse. Any student in after-school activities will also have symptom screening completed by the sponsor/coach. When they are participating in a physical activity, masking will not be required, but the student would be required to mask when not involved in physical activity.
The close contact not showing signs or symptoms wears a mask and completes a COVID-19 PCR test on day five and continues to work or attend school with a mask until day eight and a negative result is a received.
Proof of a negative test result must be provided to the school office to continue to attend school after day eight unmasked.
The close contact not showing signs or symptoms must continue to self-monitor for symptoms throughout the day for fourteen days from exposure.
Daily symptom screening one time per day (morning) with school staff or school nurse. Any student in after-school activities will also have symptom screening completed by the sponsor/coach. When they are participating in a physical activity, masking will not be required but the student would be required to mask when not involved in physical activity.
A close contact will quarantine at home for their quarantine period.
If the close contact has not had any symptoms after 10 days, the individual can resume usual activities beginning on day 11 after exposure but will be required to wear a mask until day 14.
A close contact will quarantine at home for their quarantine period (14 days).
The protocol will be enacted why Wyoming COVID-19 County transmission indicators for Goshen County are in the dark green, green and yellow zone. It will also be enacted if the county goes from red to orange. According to the Wyoming Department of Health’s report from Sept. 23 to Oct. 6, Goshen County is in the red zone.
Superintendent Kramer said the committee realized the protocol may be less effective when the cases rise past the orange zone.
“There was discussion of when we’re moving up it seems to go really rapidly from step to step,” Kramer said. “When moving up in the orange area this would not be in effect.”
Miller added the protocol is meant to lower the quarantine number since it was an issue since the beginning of the school year.
“This provides for options for those close contacts that are during school hours… and thereby giving options for the students to remain in class either wearing a mask, wearing a mask and testing, or quarantining at home,” Miller said.
Trustee Taylor Schmick requested to add line to the protocol stating it will go into effect in all zones if the mask mandate is redacted. Trustee Carlos Saucedo requested to clarify families will be financially responsible for testing, and the protocol will also be in effect for vaccinated students and staff as well.
The board approved the protocol, and it will take two weeks to implement staff to adhere to the guidelines before it is enacted.
During the information session, the board welcomed new staff, and acknowledge staff who transferred between schools in the district.
Lincoln Elementary Principal Nyana Simms, along with the kindergarten teachers at the school, talked to the board about this year’s staggered start. The staggered was implemented for the first two weeks of school to allow the teachers and students to get to know each other.
“Kindergarteners [had] a soft start so that we get a chance to really get to know them and ease them into the program as elementary students,” Simms said.
Simms also said the staggered start made the school less hectic than previous years.
“It was amazing to be able to take that time and not only make sure those kiddos felt comfortable, their anxiety was less, but the calmness of the whole building was incredible,” Simms said.
One of the concerns Simms learned of the staggered start was some parents could not find daycare when it was not their children’s turn to go to school. Simms said planned to help with daycare but were unable to do so.
Allison Brummell, Rory Masterson, and Marissa Moorehouse of the leadership class at Torrington High School talked about some of the programs and activities they do in their class. Brummell said the class teaches them to be leaders in the community.
Lori Madrid with Everybody Matters talked to the board about her recent meeting with GCSD staff about social-emotional learning and professional development.
During public comment, Ashley Cushman said the board’s actions from the past 18 months have not represented the community.
“We trusted you, but your words mean nothing because your actions have spoken the truth,” Cushman said.
Cushman also said the board has not responded to other issues aside from the mask mandate including standards-based grading, and student safety.
Denise Bellinger addressed the board about the district’s bullying and harassment policy and asked them to review it. Bellinger suggested the punishment for bullying should be more than a suspension.
“I think it has to be a mandatory [the child] see a therapist and [their] parents pay for it. That will wake up a parent if they have to take money out of their pocket because their child is not behaving,” Bellinger said.
Danielle Murphy presented the board with a petition to remove the face covering mandate in Goshen County schools.
The petition reads, “WHEREAS, on September 2, 2021 over 250 residents attended the Goshen County School District #1 board meeting in opposition to a mask mandate. The school board voted 5-4 to approve a face covering mandate that includes staff, students, and visitors, and;
WHEREAS, a face covering is being used to prevent transmission of a communicable disease, therefor is being used as a medical device, and;
WHEREAS, Article 1 Section 38 of the Wyoming Constitution, Right of Healthcare Access, protects our God given right to make health care decisions for ourselves and our children. It states “Each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions. The parent, guardian or legal representative of any other natural person shall have the right to make health care decisions for that person,” and;
WHEREAS, Wyoming State Statute 14-2-206 Protection of Parental Rights states “the liberty of a parent to the care, custody and control of their child is a fundamental right that resides first in the parent, and;
WHEREAS, Wyoming State Statute 35-1-310 Limitation on Orders (b) states that “nothing in this chapter shall be construed to limit a parent or guardian’s right to the care custody and control of a minor child under the care of the parent or guardian,” and;
WHEREAS, there have been zero (0) pediatric Covid -19 related deaths in Wyoming, and;
WHEREAS, Covid-19 vaccination is available to residents 16 and older and is soon to be released for children above the age of 5, and;
WHEREAS, Natural immunity and antibodies are known to exist in much of the population.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT, the Goshen County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees should remove the unlawful face covering mandate, and;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT, the undersigned of the attached signature pages request
that the Goshen County School District #1 Board of Trustees take immediate action to recognize and protect parental and individual rights.
Ashley Posten brought up her concerns with the district’s religious exemption form for masks. Posten said it was unnecessary to require a reason for the exemption and to get a signature from their religious leader. Posten also said creating a plan for students in class with exemptions to face coverings due to religious reasons was unconstitutional because it was religious discrimination.
Marie Flanagan said the board was lacking the ability to address problems in the school system.
if you have a weak link leadership must recognize and establish a problem for it to be fixed,” Flanagan said.
Lind Meyer voiced her concern of non-vaccinated students having to quarantine when a close contact being while their vaccinated classmates can stay in school and participate in activities. The new protocol approved by the board is meant to address such issues.
Along with the consent agenda, the board approved the following actions.
Accept the resignations submitted by Torrington Middle School science teacher Matt Gordon effective Friday, Oct 22, and by Torrington High School Principal Chase Christensen effective June 30, 2022.
Approval of offering a teaching contract to Joe Wilson as a science teacher for the remainder of the school year.
Approval of renumbering district policy 4151 to 4325 (Leave Grant by the Superintendent) s the policy applies to al staff.
Approval of new job description for Director of Human Resources and Public Relations as presented and job posting.
Approval of purchase of site license for Selquity online program for Southeast School
Approval of contracting with Quadient Leasing for the Acquisition of a new district postage machine.
Approval of contracting with Field Turf/Renner Sports for district tennis court concrete overlay project.
Approval of contracting for concrete flooring in the Southeast storage facility.
The board also discussed leadership governance and board self-evaluation from the work session on Sept. 23. Trustees Schmick and Sussex said the board should schedule times to visit schools especially on days when schools are holding special events.
The board will meet on Tuesday, Oct. 26 at 6 p.m. to review applicants for the vacant position on the board. Applications must be sent to the school district by Friday, Oct. 22 at 3 p.m.
Trustee Schmick also proposed a meeting on Thursday, Oct. 28 at 6 p.m. to vote on removing the mask mandate. The rest of the board members agreed, and the agenda will also include swearing in the new member.
At the special meeting for the mask mandate there will be a 90-minute public forum broken into two 45-minute segments for both sides of the argument. Those who wish to speak will have to indicate which side they are lobbying for on their forum.
The Salary Relations Committee will meet on Oct. 20 from 3:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The next regular board meeting will be Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m.