CHEYENNE – State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow released the Smart Start guidance document Wednesday at a joint press conference with Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon. The guidance provides requirements, recommendations, and considerations based on three tiers of possible reopening and operating scenarios schools may face this fall.
“Our efforts to adapt to the COVID-19 environment have been immense over the last three months,” Superintendent Balow said. “Today, as we look to open schools in the fall, I am confident that we will be successful and also transform our school system for the better.”
Each school district will be required to submit their Smart Start plan to the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) by August 3, 2020. These plans must include how they will meet the requirements for all three tiers of operation in four focus areas: communications, safety and wellness, school operations, and instruction and technology. This preparation will allow districts to continue safely and effectively operating schools no matter which tier of operation they are in based on state or local health orders.
The Smart Start Working Group was created by the Governor’s COVID-19 Education Task Force to develop guidance to assist school and district leaders in their efforts to reopen schools for the 2020-21 school year. The group consists of school district leaders and educators, health professionals, representatives from the Governor’s Office, and technology partners. The Working Group is co-chaired by Wanda Maloney, Wyoming Department of Education Accountability Director and Stephanie Pyle, Senior Administrator of the Public Health Division with the Wyoming Department of Health.
“Now more than ever, school districts have the opportunity to strengthen community relationships by crafting reopening plans that include frequent two-way communication. Effective communication plans will be the cornerstone for successfully reopening school buildings and delivering a quality education to all students under any circumstances.” said Communications Subcommittee Chair Lachelle Brant.
“Beginning in March, health and education had to come together in ways no one could have imagined just a few weeks prior,” said Safety and Wellness Subcommittee Chairperson Janet Farmer. “Through the Safety and Wellness subcommittee, we have worked to make sure the school environment will be a healthy place.”
The guidance document will help school districts define a foundation and framework to move forward with an eye toward adaptability.
“Our team’s goal was to provide a blueprint of ideas to help districts develop school reentry plans to ensure a meaningful, equitable, and safe learning environment for all students,” said Instruction and Technology Subcommittee Chair Brian Harms.
“School Operations undergirds all the critical work in a school district ensuring students get to school safely and on time, that they are fed nutritious meals, and that our students learn in safe and inviting environments,” said School Operations Subcommittee Chair Paige Hughes. “Input from different-sized districts from all across the state has informed a targeted set of requirements and recommendations to help support district leaders in opening their schools in a way that allows optimal learning while keeping students and staff healthy.
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Linda Finnerty, Communications Director
This week’s memos are a blend of business as usual, with modifications to accommodate the times, and new information.
Memos to be released on May 4:
- 2020-065: EARLY RELEASE – 2020 Summer Learning Opportunities for Students
- 2020-066: 2018-19 Postsecondary Readiness and WDE950 Student Transcript Review
- 2020-067: 2021 Teacher of the Year Application Extension and New Process
- 2020-068: 2018-19 WAEA Exception Form Available Now
Memo to be released today:
- Memo 2020-060: COVID-19 Guidance Updates – April 20, 2020
Memo released today:
- 2020-043: COVID-19 Guidance Updates – March 23, 2020
The Wyoming Department of Education submitted a waiver to the U.S Department of Education from assessments, accountability and school identification, and reporting requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended. The waiver language can be viewed here. Public comment on this action is being taken through April 20, 2020.
Comments can be submitted through the form below, or mailed to the Wyoming Department of Education, attn: Kari Eakins, 122 West 25th Street, Suite E200, Cheyenne, WY 82002.
The public comment period has closed on Wyoming waiver from federal assessment and accountability requirements in light of the widespread school closures due to the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Earlier today the Office of Governor Mark Gordon issued the following release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 15, 2020
CONTACT: Michael Pearlman, Communications Director
307.777.7437 | email@example.com
Governor Gordon and State Superintendent Jillian Balow issue a recommendation on school closures
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Due to the unprecedented circumstances facing our state, Governor Mark Gordon and State Superintendent Jillian Balow recommend that all schools remain closed to students through at least April 3. This is a recommendation to local superintendents and school boards, who will make the final decisions on closures. Additionally, decisions relating to the requirement for school district staff to report to work remain with local school boards of trustees. Governor Gordon and Superintendent Balow will continue to monitor COVID-19 developments throughout this three-week period, with the goal of getting students back to classrooms as soon as safely possible.
This recommendation is not necessarily based on epidemiological best practices but is an attempt to allow schools and communities to prepare to operate in a way that mitigates community spread of COVID-19 and minimizes negative economic impacts locally and statewide.
“This is Wyoming, where we are all neighbors,” Governor Gordon said. “While social distancing should be a priority for all of us, it should not keep us from helping out our neighbors. I am thinking of our first responders and healthcare workers on the frontlines who may be without child care. This is a time, if the risk is low, to help one another out.”
The Governor and State Superintendent urge district leadership to work within their schools and communities to ensure the continuity of learning and essential services as determined locally. “In the midst of this pandemic, communities need the latitude, empowerment, and support to make difficult decisions that affect education, economy, and essential functions,” Governor Gordon continued. “While we safeguard the health of every person we must also do our best to continue our daily work for the economic security of our state and nation.”
“Evidence of community spread in Fremont County, two confirmed cases in Sheridan County, and pending tests from across the state have led us to this,” Superintendent Balow said. “Wyoming has over 90,000 square miles where schooling is an essential function in each community – the decision is difficult.”
Social distancing, basic hygiene, and heightened disinfection efforts continue to be the primary means to contain COVID-19 spread. We strongly encourage everyone to continue these practices. Local school districts continue to be empowered to make decisions in consultation with the State Department of Health and local health care officials as to closure and other containment strategies.
Governor Gordon, Superintendent Balow, the State Health Officer, and others will continually evaluate COVID-19 data, guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and other reliable information to make additional recommendations.
-CDC guidance and other resources are available at https://edu.wyoming.gov/. The State Superintendent is exploring her ability to hold districts harmless from any financial reduction as a result of this ten instructional day loss. In addition, the Wyoming Department of Education has received a waiver from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to allow schools to offer student meals during school closures. For more information, visit: https://edu.wyoming.gov/educators/covid-19-resources/