LARAMIE, Wyo. (February 11, 2021) – At the February 10 Board of Trustees meeting, the board voted to move all schools to Tier I (five days a week, in-person learning) starting on Monday, March 22. That date is the first day after Spring Break. The trustees spent over an hour discussing the motion.

“This is a weighty decision. I’ve spent many hours weighing the pros and cons,” said Chairwoman Janice Marshall. “I’ve taken all of the perspectives into consideration. Since the pandemic began, I have relied on the guidance of our health officers, data, and the conditions in Albany County. The health officers have now given us the green light to move to Tier I. Cases are the lowest they have been since October, despite the various strains. Albany County, Wyoming, and the whole country are experiencing low numbers of hospitalizations.

“A commitment to mitigation practices is essential,” Marshall continued. “This includes mask wearing, no exceptions, hand sanitation, social distancing, staying home if you are sick, along with cleaning and disinfection in buildings.”

One topic under consideration was the upcoming availability of vaccines for teachers and staff, and how that would affect reopening.

“I do believe that we are so close to the vaccine for all of our employees, not just our teachers,” Trustee Lawrence Perea said. “It was all of our employees that kept us afloat the past year. You have all been courageous, you’ve persevered, and you’ve been flexible. We asked you to work during a pandemic, and that will never be forgotten. I just feel like we are so close to a vaccine for those who need it most. I just feel like it is best to give them the protection they need to feel safe and secure.”

Trustees cited the opinions of Dr. Alexia Harrist, the State Health Officer, and Dr. Jean Allais, the Albany County Health Officer. Both doctors agreed that it is safe for schools to move forward with Tier I teaching while keeping currently used mitigation strategies intact. These strategies include wearing face coverings, maintaining six feet in social distance as much as possible, washing hands, and staying home when sick.

“I think if we don’t vote to move to Tier I, regardless of the date, we are not following the advice of not only Dr. Harrist in Cheyenne, but Dr. Allais, which we have done consistently from the beginning of the pandemic. That is the basis of why I’ll be voting to move to Tier I,” said Trustee Jason Tangeman.

Other trustees noted that a return to full in-person instruction would help students return to a sense of normalcy.

“I also recognize that there are an awful lot of secondary school students who desire to have some of these same opportunities and experiences that we had the pleasure and fortune to experience,” said Trustee Jamin Johnson. “Some of that is just being able to walk through the halls, even maintaining social distance and wearing a mask, and see other kids. I think that is something that is important and that is something that we can provide to the kids of Albany County, the students of Albany County, to bring some semblance of normalcy back.”

Additionally, trustees mentioned the success of schools around the state that have been in a Tier I scenario for the entire 2020-21 school year so far. Board members see these schools as having had success staying open and serve as proof to the school board that full, in-person instruction is safe and possible.

More information for students and parents in the affected secondary schools will be available shortly.

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