Category Archives: News Releases

News releases from the Wyoming Department of Education

Wyoming Receives Federal Waiver From Perkins Funding Requirements

CHEYENNE – The U.S. Department of Education (USED) granted Wyoming a waiver on Wednesday, June 24, 2020 of section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA), commonly referred to as the “Tydings Amendment,” to extend the period of availability of Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 funds for obligation for programs, in which the SEA participates as the eligible agency until September 30, 2021, due to widespread school and program closures and disruptions related to the Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The flexibility afforded through the waiver extends the use of fiscal year (FY) 2018 State grant  authorized by Title I of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 through September 30, 2021.

USED announced the availability of this waiver on Thursday, April 16, 2020 and information was immediately sent to states on the waiver submission process. This waiver allows Secretary Betsy DeVos to grant waivers requested by State educational agencies (SEAs) of section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA), often referred to as the “Tydings Amendment,” to extend the period of availability of State formula grant funds authorized by the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins Act) and the Adult Education and Family Literacy Act (AEFLA).

The waiver language can be viewed here. The Wyoming Department of Education will take public comment on the waiver through August 8, 2020. Comments can be submitted through an online form, or mailed to:

Wyoming Department of Education
Attn: Shelley Hamel
122 West 25th Street, Suite E200
Cheyenne, WY 82002

All public comments will be recorded verbatim, including the submitter’s name and city of residence, on the Secretary of State website as part of the rules promulgation process.

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov

Superintendent Balow to Join Governor Gordon Wednesday to Discuss Smart Start School Reopening

CHEYENNE – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillan Balow will join Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 1 to provide an update on the Smart Start Working Group. The Smart Start group is a committee charged by the Governor’s COVID-19 Education Task Force to develop guidance for reopening schools in the fall. The guidance is to assist school and district leaders in their efforts to reopen schools next school year. The group started their work in early June and consists of school district leaders and educators, health professionals, representatives from the Governor’s Office, and technology partners.The Task Force is co-chaired by Wanda Maloney, Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) Accountability Director and Stephanie Pyle, Senior Administrator of the Public Health Division with the Wyoming Department of Health.

The WDE, along with the Wyoming Department of Health, submitted an initial draft document on June 26 to the Governor’s COVID 19 Education Task Force for review. This Smart Start working document, which will be released directly following the press conference, provides requirements, recommendations, and considerations based on a three-tiered definition of possible reopening and operating scenarios schools may face. This information is designed to support school districts and health officials in defining a plan that will address the needs of students, teachers, and staff at a local level.

The briefing will be streamed live on Wyoming PBS television, the Wyoming PBS’ Facebook page and Wyoming PBS YouTube channel.

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Media Contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov.

Smart Start Working Group Looks Ahead to Fall School Openings

CHEYENNE –  Planning for school openings this fall is underway. Smart Start, a working group composed of educators, healthcare professionals, and technology partners, was recently put into place by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. The group will consider key issues and make recommendations related to reopening schools for the 2020-21 school year to Governor Mark Gordon’s COVID-19 Education Task Force, which is chaired by Superintendent Balow.

“The most important decisions about opening schools this fall take place at the local level with schools and health officials working together,” Superintendent Balow said. “Smart Start is intended to spur local conversations and provide a framework for reopening.”

Guidance will be drafted for school districts and other educational institutions, and the group will recommend components for the Smart Start template that school districts will use to safely reopen schools in Wyoming.

“We need to ensure learning can continue under a variety of potential circumstances,” Governor Gordon said. “This working group will look strategically at reopening and develop guidance and best practices for schools so they can ensure the safety and well-being of their students this fall.”

“Our primary concern is the safety and well-being of students and staff as we consider recommendations for re-opening of schools,” said Wanda Maloney, Director of Accountability at the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE).

The working group is co-chaired by Maloney and Stephanie Pyle, Wyoming Senior Administrator of Public Health. The WDE, along with the Department of Health, will provide updates and information as the group continues to offer recommendations on how to safely reopen schools.

“As everyone involved looks forward to the next school year, the Department of Health is happy to work with this team to help ensure plans include common-sense measures meant to help limit and reduce the further spread of COVID-19,” Pyle said.

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Media contact:
Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
307-777-2053
linda.finnerty@wyo.gov.

Wyoming receives Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund Monies from the U.S. Department of Education

CHEYENNE – Wyoming will receive $32,562,651, part of about $13.2 billion allocated to the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund), authorized under section 18003 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“We are grateful for these timely funds,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “Wyoming education should not go ‘back to normal.’ School districts and schools will utilize ESSER Funds to make schools more nimble and safer in the face of a resurgence or future pandemic.”

The ESSER Funds will provide Wyoming school districts with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and will continue to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the state. The allocation is in the same proportion as Wyoming received under Part A of Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in fiscal year 2019.

“Thank you for all you are doing to lead your state through this unprecedented national emergency,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in correspondence to Balow. “You are making important decisions every day to keep your students, families, and teachers safe, and you are tackling head-on the challenges created by COVID-19 in your school districts and schools.”

On March 15, Governor Mark Gordon and Superintendent Balow recommended that schools close through at least April 3, 2020. The Wyoming Department of Health issued closure orders for public places, such as K-12 schools, through April 30, 2020. School districts are currently operating under Adapted Learning Plans until the end of the school year, if necessary.

“Funds from the CARES Act should be used to stabilize local and state communities, and schools are a part of that,” Balow said. “We should spend these dollars to fill education gaps created by COVID-19 school closures and strengthen our education system.”

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Media Contact:
Michelle Panos, Communications Director
307-777-2053
michelle.panos1@wyo.gov

Superintendent Jillian Balow’s Statement on School Reopening Plans

CHEYENNE – Superintendent Jillian Balow issued the following statements on the reopening of schools in the weeks or months ahead:

“School districts have implemented their Adapted Learning Plans, approved by the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE). These plans are authorized for use until the end of the school year, if needed.

Health orders, including the order for educational institutions, remain in effect.

“There are school districts that want to open school buildings to students as soon as possible. Within the current health orders, there is an opportunity for districts to work with their county health officials to open school buildings to some students on a limited basis for in-person instruction. Examples of this include services for those on IEPs with special needs, career and technical education, and small group reading intervention. Proper social distancing, hygiene, and enhanced sanitation must be practiced and guidelines from the CDC and Wyoming Department of Health must be followed.

“To prepare for the eventual reopening of schools – whether this spring (utilizing a variance), during the summer months, or in the fall – districts are required to submit a Reopening Schools Plan to the WDE. This plan requires approval by the local county health official. All school district superintendents should be engaged in regular and ongoing conversations with their county health official to develop a plan. The discussion about immediate in-person instruction of some students should evolve into discussions about broader opening of schools to students during the summer, and then fall. The health and safety of students, staff, and the community are of primary importance.

“In the coming days my staff and I will provide guidance to school districts including a template for reopening schools.”

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Media Contact:
Michelle Panos, Communications Director
307-777-2053
michelle.panos1@wyo.gov

WDE Seeks Grant Reviewers for the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program

CHEYENNE – The Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) seeks qualified peer-reviewers for the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers Program (21stCCLC) competitive grant review process that will be conducted online in August 2020.

This grant program provides funding to organizations (local education agencies, nonprofits, faith-based and other community-based organizations, American Indian tribes, institutions of higher education, etc.) to provide high-quality afterschool academic support and enrichment programs for students and families that include community partnerships. This peer review application process ensures that each competitive grant is awarded based on funding priorities in the 21stCCLC statute. ​

Selected reviewers will read, evaluate, and score proposals on a detailed rubric, and collaborate with others via a virtual platform; reviewers will receive $1,275 for participating.

Reviewers must be available to participate in a virtual training on June 11, 2020 or June 15, 2020, and again in August to discuss proposals that show scoring disparities.

Interested parties should complete the 21st CCLC Peer Reviewer Profile online. All reviewer information must be submitted no later than 4 p.m. on May 11, 2020 and selected participants will be notified by email May 15, 2020.

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Media Contact:
Michelle Panos, Communications Director
307-777-2053
michelle.panos1@wyo.gov

Wyoming Receives Federal Waiver from Education Funding Requirements

CHEYENNE – The U.S. Department of Education (USED) granted Wyoming a waiver Tuesday, April 7, 2020 from certain federal funding and programmatic requirements related to title-funded programs in light of the widespread school closures due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
The flexibility afforded through the waiver extends the use of fiscal year (FY) 2018 funds through September 30, 2021, and expands the possible uses of some title programs in an effort to allow districts to meet the educational needs of their students.

“The United States Department of Education was quick to respond to the immediate needs of states and their school districts,” said Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “Granting flexibility in how funding is traditionally used lets districts make critical decisions to fill gaps and think strategically about the best ways to serve students, staff, and parents during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The USED announced the availability of this waiver on Monday, April 6, 2020 and information was immediately sent to states on the waiver submission process. The waiver removes some requirements of the Education and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) relative to Federal FY 2018 and 2019 funds. Sections of the federal statutes being waived are detailed below:

  • Waiver of sections 1127(a) and (b) allows the WDE to approve districts’ waivers, more than once every three years, of the 15 % carryover limitation for fiscal year (FY) 2019 Title I, Part A funds.
  • Waiver of section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) extends the period of availability of FY 2018 funds for programs in which the WDE participates under its approved consolidated State plan through September 30, 2021.
  • Waiver of section 4106(d) Title IV, Part A increases flexibility for the use of funds without the requirement to update the needs assessment for the 2019-2020 school year.
  • Waiver of sections 4106(e)(2)(C), (D), and (E) of Title IV, Part A removes the percentage requirements for the use of FY 2019 funds allowing districts greater flexibility.
  • Waiver of section 4109(b) of Title IV, Part A removes the spending limitation for technology infrastructure for FYs 2018 and 2019.
  • Waiver of section 8101(42) expands the definition of “professional development” to include shorter term training events for the 2019-2020 school year for training topics that would typically be allowed under each program.

The waiver language can be viewed here. The Wyoming Department of Education will take public comment on the waiver through May 14, 2020. Comments can be submitted online or mailed to:

Wyoming Department of Education
Attn: Shelley Hamel
122 West 25th Street, Suite E200
Cheyenne, WY 82002

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Media Contact:
Michelle Panos, Communications Director
307-777-2053
michelle.panos1@wyo.gov

Superintendent Balow’s Statement on School Closure Extension

CHEYENNE – Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow issued the following statement in light of the recent order by Governor Mark Gordon and the Wyoming Department of Health to extend school closures until the end of April.

“As the State Superintendent, I can proudly say that education in Wyoming is prepared to move forward no matter the circumstances,” Balow said.

“As of Thursday, all 48 school districts have Adapted Learning Plans for the continued instruction of all students. The process to build and approve these plans was iterative and involved multiple reviews by districts and the Wyoming Department of Education. I have personally read every plan and communicated individually with every superintendent in the state.

“I have extended maximum flexibility to school districts in addressing the needs of all students. They also can – and will be – modified as long as the closure exists. My office and I will continue to provide guidance, technical assistance, and support.

“In their plans, school districts had to summarize their instructional approach and strategies for engaging all students. There are 48 unique plans to meet the needs of students. Learning is age-appropriate and will not feel like ‘normal school.’

“My continued guidance is to prioritize personal and community health.

“The Governor’s COVID-19 task force on education, which I chair, has focused our work on kindergarten readiness and transitions from high school to college and career. We are also working through implications and guidance for incoming education stabilization funds as a result of the federal CARES Act. We look forward to providing updates.

“I would like to end by saying – we have the best educators” Balow concluded. “We have the best students. We have the best communities. Let’s support each other.”

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Media Contact:
Michelle Panos, Communications Director
307-777-2053
michelle.panos1@wyo.gov

WDE Approves all 48 School District Adapted Learning Plans

CHEYENNE – As of Thursday, the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) approved the Adapted Learning Plans for all 48 school districts. Each district was required to submit a unique plan that lays out the strategies each district is implementing to continue to educate students while schools are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am impressed by the agility of Wyoming school districts to create learning plans designed to meet the needs of all students in this COVID-19 environment,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. “In the span of three weeks, the WDE and school districts worked together to build and approve these plans that will result in continued teaching and learning for more than 90,000 students and 20,000 staff in every school district across our state.”

The Adapted Learning Plans include strategies to deliver a combination of virtual lessons, hard copy packets of assignments, phone calls, emails, and limited in-person instruction. Other aspects of plans include details for attendance, student progress, staff utilization, parent and community engagement, compliance with special education law, considerations for graduating seniors, and student privacy.

“I am especially proud of how school districts have responded to the nutritional needs of students,” Balow said. “Within a few days of the initial school closures, all 48 districts, with the assistance of the WDE School Nutrition Team, seamlessly activated plans to feed kids. Families’ lives have been significantly disrupted by this pandemic, and schools are stepping up to provide support and stability for students.”

To access the contents of a particular school district plan, contact the school district directly.

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Media Contact:
Michelle Panos, Communications Director
307-777-2053
michelle.panos1@wyo.gov

State Superintendent Issues Guidance For Continuing Education During School Closures

CHEYENNE – In light of the extension of the three existing orders by Governor Mark Gordon and the Wyoming Department of Health to keep schools closed through April 17, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow has issued guidance for school districts’ safe, but continued, operation during the extended closure.

“School doors may be closed to students, but Wyoming education is open for business,” Balow said. “The desire by teachers to connect with their students and provide learning opportunities has been inspiring. Teaching and learning while practicing social distancing is a new concept for many. Teachers, parents, and students all need support in order for it to be successful.”

Each Wyoming school district must have an Adapted Learning Plan approved by the Wyoming Department of Education prior to April 6 to continue to receive state funding. On Monday, April 6, every district is expected to continue to provide an equitable education for all students in grades
K-12 while access to school buildings is limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Adapted Learning Plans will allow each school district to deliver instruction through unique methods best suited to their district.

“We are working through immense challenges with laws, policies, practices, and logistics. The collaboration among state leaders and local districts has been incredible,” Balow said. “We are all working together to give our students the education they deserve during this trying time.”

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Media Contact:
Michelle Panos, Communications Director
307-777-2053
michelle.panos1@wyo.gov