COVID-19 Update and New Safety Measures after Thanksgiving

Dear ACSD#1 Families:

COVID-19 cases in Albany County have increased significantly during the past few weeks. School officials are asking the community and schools for increased vigilance and additional safety measures in order to safely continue school operations. This memo outlines the school district’s current status as well as the measures that the school system is taking to increase safety and maintain operations. There are two primary measures that must occur following the Thanksgiving Holiday break to continue to safely operate schools and to reduce the transmission of COVID-19 in our community:

  • Parents, students, and staff must complete the revised Daily Health Screening, and
  • Students or staff who have COVID-19 like symptoms must have a negative test before they can return to school, or they must remain in isolation or quarantine for 10 days.

Both of these measures are required due to the increase in the number of cases in Albany County and the further risk of transmission.  These measures are taken in consultation with local health officials and with the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The following information provides the rationale for these measures.

TIER III (100% REMOTE LEARNING) NOT LIKELY

The school board outlined specific COVID-19 metrics to monitor in the Maintaining School Operations report approved at the September School Board meeting.  Each operating tier had specific thresholds to consider when making strategic operational decisions.  Albany County has met some of the thresholds identified in the report. However, one specific metric does not necessarily trigger a specific action, especially in the environment of continual uncertainty. The guidance by the CDC and state health officials continues to be updated as health officials learn more about COVID-19. The data and guidance that informed decisions 2 – 3 months ago, is not necessarily the same information that school and health officials are using now to make decisions.

Barring a directive from the federal or state government, at this time it is unlikely that ACSD#1 will entirely shut down or move all schools to a Tier III status (100% remote learning).  The risk of transmission in the schools is increasing, but the mitigation strategies that have been implemented in our schools continue to keep the risk of spread in the schools to a low threat and a manageable concern.

The focus for Tier 3 metrics described in the September report included the following:

  • More than 5% positive cases in the county
  • More than 2 cases per day in seven day rolling average in the school community
  • Less than 80% student and staff attendance in Tier II
  • Less than 2 week supply of PPE and sanitation supplies

The greatest concern for our community is the percentage of positive cases in the county.  The percent of positive cases in the county was less than 4% on October 15th and less than 5% up until November 9, when for the first time the percent of cases exceeded 5%.  For the past two weeks, the percentage of positive tests has been over 5% but under 6%.  This data is taken from the Wyoming Department of Health website and is a rolling 14 day average.

When we reach a threshold, we assess the context of the situation and make a decision. Even though the number of cases exceeds 5%, this is not an automatic trigger for Tier 3. There are other factors that must be considered before we move to Tier III and 100% remote learning in a classroom or school building. We continually consult with the Albany County Health Officer, Dr. Allais, regarding community spread, and Dr. Allais concurs that the school district should not implement Tier 3 for any school building, in part due to the greater concerned expressed by CDC guidance to maintain school operations:

Schools are an important part of the infrastructure of communities, as they provide safe, supportive learning environments for students, employ teachers and other staff, and enable parents, guardians, and caregivers to work. Schools also help to mitigate health disparities by providing critical services including school meal programs and social, physical, behavioral, and mental health services.[1]

We continue to believe that students and staff are safe at school, and the mitigation strategies that have been implemented will lessen the current threat of increased COVID-19 transmission in our community.

Another Tier III metric included in the September report was the number of positive cases per day in our schools over a seven day rolling average.  We are presently over the threshold of two per day, but the context of these cases is not due to transmission in the schools. When this metric was established, we believed that two cases in a building would indicate significant spread in the schools.  But this is not the case. Rather, the positive cases almost without exception result in transmission outside of school. The mitigation strategies that are being implemented at the schools are working—small group gatherings and appropriate physical distance, use of face coverings, and frequent hand washing.

The final two metrics for Tier 3 consideration (satisfactory attendance and adequate supplies) have not been a concern.  Student attendance is consistently between 92 – 95%, and we have personal protective equipment (PPE) and sanitation supplies.

Community Support and Additional Intervention

The increasing prevalence of community spread requires that the school district implement additional measures and continue to encourage adherence to existing procedures for the greater, common good.

Health officials and epidemiologists often refer to the Swiss Cheese model for mitigation strategies.  Here is a sample of the model:

The important aspect of the model is the cumulative power of all of the mitigation strategies to work together to reduce the threat and spread of COVID-19.  The first level of mitigation is the health screening tool that the district has shared to remind parents and students that if they are ill or have even the slightest symptoms, they should stay home.  Unfortunately, everyone is not using the health screener, so it is left to others in the school community to guess whether parents are following the health screening procedure.  In some cases, students are attending school with slight symptoms, and with the level of transmission in our community, this increases the risk of threat of transmission in our schools.

Our school community must do better to complete the health screener, so we have confidence that everyone is seriously considering the health risks of others.  The health screener will be updated following the break to include additional symptoms that have been added to the CDC potential COVID-19 symptoms list.

Secondly, the CDC has provided updated guidance for schools related to when and how long students should be at home due to exposure to COVID-19 (close contact) or how long they must be isolated due to a positive case.  Initial guidance from the CDC attempted to mitigate the amount of time that students could miss due to isolation or quarantine.  New guidance recognizes that communities must address the possibility of increasing spread and the greater risk that is present due to community spread.  The CDC clarifies that

We learn more about COVID-19 every day, and as more information becomes available, CDC will continue to update and share information. As our knowledge and understanding of COVID-19 evolves, this guidance may change. Based on the best available evidence at this time,

  • CDC does not currently recommend schools conduct symptom screening for all students in grades K-12 on a routine (e.g., daily) basis.
  • Parents, caregivers, or guardians (“caregivers”) should be strongly encouraged to monitor their children for symptoms of infectious illness every day through home-based symptom screening.
  • Students who are sick should not attend school in-person.[2]

The school district will revise the symptoms check list to include other minor symptoms (congestion or runny nose) for parents to assess their children prior to arriving at school. The school district’s nurses may require parents to keep children home for longer periods of time due to ongoing health symptoms. Students who have been in close contact with a positive case will continue to be required to quarantine for 14 days.  Earlier guidance permitted students who had symptoms and who had no known contact with an infected person to return to school once they were symptom free.

Starting November 30, 2020, symptomatic students will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test as well as be symptom free for 24 hours with no fever (without fever reducing medication) in order to return to school before the required 10 day quarantine or isolation. 

This new safety measure is due to the increased transmission in our community and the possibility of an increasing threat in our schools. The school district will work with families to assist students to find a no cost COVID-19 test, but the negative result must precede a return to schools for the health, safety, and welfare for the entire community.

Thanksgiving Travel and Returning Procedures

Guidance from the CDC recommends that people not travel during the Thanksgiving Holiday, but they offer some tips if you must travel.  The school district will not impose quarantine measures for staff or students who travel out of the county, but we do ask that when people return that they monitor for even the slightest trace of illness and remain home until they are symptom free.

[1]  CDC guidance document, Indicators for Dynamic School Decision-Making. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/indicators.html#thresholds

[2] CDC guidance document, Screening K-12 Students for Symptoms of COVID-19. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/symptom-screening.html


ACSD#1 COVID-19 Update, November 16, 2020

The number of COVID-19 positive cases continue to escalate in the county, but we have found that schools are not places with significant transmission. We will continue to stay with in-person learning (5 days full time at elementary and A/B schedule for secondary schools) and work to navigate the challenges that we will face in the next couple of weeks.

The school board and administration continue to monitor the metrics that were established in the Maintaining School Operations report that was approved by the school board in September.  We have met some of the thresholds identified in the report, but we are not at the point that we need to move to full-time remote learning. The focus for Tier 3 metrics described in the report included the following:

  • More than 5% positive cases in the county
  • More than 2 cases per day in seven day rolling average in the school community
  • Less than 80% student and staff attendance in Tier 2
  • Less than 2 week supply of PPE and sanitation supplies

The greatest concern for our community is the percentage of positive cases in the county.  This past week, the percentage has increased to over 5% for the first time.  This data is taken from the Wyoming Department of Health website and is a rolling 14 day average. When we reach a threshold, we assess the context of the situation and make a decision regarding an operational strategy. Even though the number of cases exceeds 5% in the county, this is not an automatic trigger for Tier 3. There are other factors that must be considered before we move to Tier 3 and full-time remote learning. We continually consult with the Albany County Health Officer, Dr. Allais, regarding community spread, and Dr. Allais agrees that transmission is not occurring in the schools. Dr. Allais concurs that the school district should not implement Tier 3 (schools closed—all students doing remote learning).

We do have more than two positive cases per day in our schools over a seven-day rolling average, but the context of these cases is not due to transmission in the schools. We will continue to monitor positive cases closely.  When this metric was established, we thought that two cases in a building would be an indicator of significant spread in the schools.  That has not occurred. The mitigation strategies that are being implemented at the schools are working—small group gatherings and appropriate physical distance, use of face coverings, and frequent hand washing.

The final two metrics for Tier 3 consideration (attendance and supplies) have not been a concern.  Student attendance is consistently between 92 – 95%, and we have PPE and sanitation supplies.

The challenge for the school district for the next two weeks will be maintaining personnel in our school buildings to continue to keep school in session.  Due to the transmission of COVID-19 in our community, our employees have come in close contact with friends, acquaintances, and family members who have tested positive.  In order to keep the schools safe, we have demanded that affected staff quarantine for no less than 14 days. We need the help of the community to make sure that we can continue to operate the schools safely.  I am asking that our community adhere to CDC guidelines of maintaining a physical distance, wearing a face covering, and washing hands frequently. These strategies are working in our buildings, and I believe they can work for our community.  I am asking for greater diligence and personal responsibility to reduce the amount of spread in our community.


ACSD#1—Taking Care of the Children

I recently had an opportunity to ask a teacher “how are you doing?” Her immediate response was, “great, it is wonderful to see children every day.” She quickly added, “Dr. Yennie, I am glad that we are in school.” There was absolute joy in her response, and even though I could not see her smile, her eyes told the story.

We take our mission to heart—teachers genuinely care for children and enjoy teaching and being around children.  ACSD#1 is taking care of the children during this pandemic, and I know our teachers are proud to say they serve an essential role in taking care of our present as we educate for the future. This pandemic crisis presents an unwelcome, but nonetheless, amazing opportunity to serve our community, and the school district is proud to do our part to keep our community safe and take care of the children.

At last night’s board meeting, I was reminded of the joy of teaching and why teachers tell me, “it is wonderful to see children every day.” The school board celebrated the Girls Swimming State Championship and the Volleyball State Championship, and I saw that same expression of absolute joy on the faces of the students (I could also see smiles since we were on a Zoom video conference). I thought back to my time as a high school teacher and the enjoyment I felt being around young people—students always brightened my day, and last night, I was reminded once again how teachers feel every day. We have a glorious job.

Our community has increasing number of positive COVID-19 cases, but schools continue to be one the safest places for our students and staff. Unfortunately, we are struggling to ensure that we have our outstanding teachers in every classroom every day. With the increase in cases in our county, our employees have been affected either by being in close contact with a positive case, or needing to be isolated because they have tested positive for COVID-19. In these instances, we immediately follow CDC and local health orders and ask our employees to quarantine for 14 days. We have implemented contingencies for filling in when our employees need to be isolated at home, but we have a significant need for qualified substitute teachers who can assist when we have teachers out of the classroom for 14 days.

The following graph shows the number of employee requests that we have received for Federal COVID-19 Leave (up to 80 hours) during the past two months. We have had a steep upward trend during the past two weeks, and that has required the need for additional substitutes in our buildings. The same phenomenon is affecting our community as well. Early Tuesday morning I heard that 10 of the substitutes in our pool recently tested positive, and six more (UW students) returned home, so they can remain healthy to student teach in the Spring.

Substitute Training

Most of the substitutes we have hired during the past have come from UW education students, but this year many students have not been on campus or available to substitute. We have expanded our reach, but the traditional requirement of 60 hours of college credit to receive a substitute teaching certificate is too difficult or time consuming for some people to get a certificate. With new guidance from the Professional Teaching Standards Board, the school district will be implementing a training program for substitutes which is an alternative path to substitute certification. We will have additional details shortly, but if you are interested and want to help in the classroom, please send us an email at info@acsd1.org to inquire how you can receive substitute training and certification.  We look forward to helping you experience the joy we feel every day.


ACSD#1 COVID-19 Update, November 9, 2020

COVID-19 cases in the county are increasing exponentially, and the school district has been affected by the increases due to many of our families and staff being in close contact with a person who has tested positive.  As of Monday morning, November 9, 2020, the school district has 10 students and 5 staff members who have tested positive.  In addition to these 15 cases, there are over 100 students and staff quarantined as a result of someone in their household who has tested positive (86 students and 21 staff). It is important to know that there has not been a case of transmission in the schools.  Students and staff have been affected through community spread outside of the schools and mostly due to close contact with a member in the household.

The school board established metrics at the September 9, 2020 school board meeting with the best information available at that time.  The school district is tracking key data metrics and consulting with state and local health officials to determine the best course of action for our community.  Albany County recently issued Public Health Order 2020-002 which requires wearing “face coverings outside their home,” and the school board continues to assess data to determine how best to keep schools open. The data include the following: the percentage of positive cases in the county; the number of cases in a seven day rolling average within the school community; staff and student attendance; and the availability of sanitation and personal protective equipment.

The percentage of positive cases in the county has been 3-4% for the past couple of weeks, and the number of cases in the schools has been due to other community spread—not transmission within the school. The threshold established in September set a metric of 5% positive cases and two or more cases per day in the seven day rolling average in the school community.  The school district is approaching these thresholds.  Both staff and student attendance remain strong, primarily due to the school district’s ability to shift to online learning for students and staff who are quarantined.  The school district continues to have available supplies for sanitation and protective equipment.

The greatest challenge the school district will face in the upcoming weeks is the availability of staff to deliver services.  We will continue to assess the ability to deliver in-person instruction and make adjustments as necessary.  The school district we will not lower the standard of safety for the number of students in a classroom or the number of students who can safely ride on the bus.

Immediate Action Required

Our community must work together to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and to ensure that we can continue to maintain school operations. It is imperative that we follow specific behaviors to reduce the transmission of this disease. Here are some critical action steps:

ACTION STEPS 

  • Complete the daily health screening—do not go to school or to work if you are not feeling well. Monitor your health for 24 hours, and if the symptoms persist, please consult your health care provider.
  • Maintain physical distance of 6 feet and avoid large gatherings
  • Wear face covering
  • Wash hands frequently

In addition to the critical action steps listed above, we will continue to provide guidance and direction for our students, families, and staff members when a COVID-19 case enters the school. Wyoming Department of Health directives indicate that students or staff members who have tested positive for COVID-19 must isolate (stay at home) for a period of no less than 10 days, and they may return when they no longer have symptoms without fever reducing medication—10 days and symptom free.

Parents and staff may have received notification (form letter from the Wyoming Department of Health) sent by your child’s school principal indicating that a student or a staff member has recently tested positive for COVID-19.  This notification also includes information about monitoring your child’s health and offers guidance to consult a medical professional if anyone in your family starts to show symptoms:

What to do if your child gets sick?

  • It is important to remember that COVID-19 is being spread in many communities, and COVID-19 exposure can happen outside of school. If your child develops symptoms, even if the symptoms are mild, he or she may have COVID-19. Your child should stay home except to get medical care. Do not send your child to school, and avoid public spaces, public activities, and group gatherings.  
  • Call your child’s healthcare provider to discuss your child’s symptoms and whether he or she needs to be tested. 

We understand that this will be a trying next few weeks, and we will do our best to continue to maintain school operations. We cannot do it alone, and I am asking our entire community to work together to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19 by adhering to guidance provided by the CDC and the Wyoming Department of Health.


ACSD#1 COVID-19 Update, October 14, 2020

Dear ACSD#1 Families,

The increasing number of cases of COVID-19 in Albany County during the past few weeks continues to drive greater uncertainty and concern throughout our community and within the schools.  We have not had a case of COVID-19 transmission in the school setting, but we have had a number of students and staff members who have been affected by close contact of a person in the household who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The school board will consider the current strategy of offering a hybrid learning model (Tier II) at this evening's school board meeting. The school board voted in August to implement the Tier II approach, but they also stated that they would revisit the approach at the October meeting.   I will recommend that we stay with the current approach--alternating A/B schedule at the middle and high school.  The following statement is taken from a memorandum I have recently shared with the school board:

Upon current review of the COVID-19 data and listening to parent and teacher input from emails and a recent survey, I will not recommend that the school board approve the motion on the agenda for the October 14, 2020 meeting to move to Tier I.

The entire memo can be found in BoardDocs in the October 14, 2020 school board agenda, item 10D.  HERE is a link for your convenience. The memo also includes preliminary data from the survey.  The survey will be open through October 24, 2020 for students, parents, and employees.

We need to continue to implement the mitigating strategies to ensure that we limit the risk of COVID-19 transmission in our schools.  We will continue to implement physical distance of six feet, use face coverings, frequent hand washing, daily health screenings, enhanced sanitation procedures, and proper room ventilation.  Your assistance with these mitigating strategies will help ensure that we can continue to operate schools safely for our students and staff.

Sincerely,

Jubal C. Yennie

Superintendent

 

 


ACSD#1 COVID-19 Update and Stakeholder Survey

Dear ACSD#1 Students, Employees, and Families,

This has certainly been a difficult time for Albany County.  We have increasing COVID-19 positive test results in the county, and we have endured the constant smoke and poor air quality due to the Mullen Fire.  I appreciate the work our employees are doing to educate and serve students.  We are continuously improving the virtual instruction model,  and the middle school and high school teachers are working hard to improve virtual learning during the alternating days that students are unable to attend school in-person.  In uncertain and stressful times, some people are unable to assist other people, but ACSD#1 employees have demonstrated time and again that we are willing to go above and beyond to help students and families--the transportation department has worked hard to figure out ways to get students to school with the limitations of social distancing; the food service department has consistently prepared, delivered, and made meals available for students and families from the inception of the pandemic in mid-March; custodians have cleaned, sanitized, and cleaned some more to ensure that buildings are safe for students and employees; teachers, paraprofessionals, and administrators have logged countless hours to find ways to keep students and employees safe and at the same time find ways to engage students in meaningful learning opportunities.  I cannot even begin to thank the nurses enough for their expertise, caring, and ability to educate students and families about COVID-19.  We know this has not been easy for anyone, but we know that we will rely on each other for support and encouragement.

We Would Like Your Feedback

During this unprecedented time, ACSD#1 continues to operate elementary schools full time. The size of the elementary schools and the classrooms permit the school district to operate with a physical distance of 6 feet between students and staff, which is one of the key mitigating factors to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19.  Our larger secondary schools (Laramie Middle and Laramie High School) have operated an alternating schedule where half of the students attend on one day and the other half of the students attend the next day. The fewer number of students each day allows for students and teachers to maintain the appropriate six foot distance.

ACSD#1 has not had a case of COVID-19 transmission in the schools, but we have had a number of people affected by household members who have tested positive and subsequently needed to be quarantined.  We have had some students and staff members who have tested positive, but state health orders and communication with school and district administrators have allowed the school district minimal disruption of school operations. Department of Health protocols of contact tracing and notification have limited the risk and exposure for students and staff.

As we approach the end of the first quarter, we are reassessing the operational strategy and the needs of students, parents, and teachers.  Please share your responses to this brief survey.  We will use this information to understand preferences of students, parents, and employees.   Please complete the survey by Friday, October 24, 2020.

Sincerely,

Jubal C. Yennie

Superintendent


ACSD#1 COVID-19 Update, September 21, 2020

ACSD#1 Families,

The school district continues to manage the occurrences of COVID-19 positive cases in our community, and we have been able to manage with minimal disruption the number of people who have been quarantined as a result of their close contact with a person with a known positive COVID-19 test.

Last week we had 30 students and 14 staff members affected by the identification of COVID-19 as a result of close contact.  We had one staff member and one student who tested positive for COVID-19.  Some of the 30 students were given health orders to quarantine primarily because a member in their immediate household tested positive. A few students were quarantined as a result of a staff member who tested positive for COVID-19 and was in close contact with students during the school day. The number of individuals affected were spread across the district in small numbers.  In other words, there was not a large outbreak in a single building.

The staff member who tested positive was not exhibiting symptoms, but tested positive as a result of testing conducted at the University of Wyoming.  Regardless of whether a person is showing symptoms or not, it is imperative that we take precautions when a positive case is identified to ensure the health and safety of our entire community.

School Board to Review Data on Thursday, September 24, 2020

Positive Cases of COVID-19 are trending upward, and the number of positive tests in the county exceeded 5% over the weekend.  County and state health officials monitor this metric as an indicator of further community spread, and the school district will monitor this number closely during the next 7 – 10 days.  The school board will meet on Thursday, September 24, 2020 at 6 p.m. to review the current COVID-19 data metrics, and discuss the implications with the County Health Officer, Dr. Jean Allais.  The school board will also review the educational progress that students are making during the first few weeks of school.  This meeting will be streamed live on Zoom.

The school board, administration, and parents are anxious to get students back in school buildings full time at the secondary level (middle school and high school).  The school board will review the data this week, and they will consider a move to Tier I (full time) at their next regularly scheduled board meeting on October 14, 2020.

Implementing Precaution and Instilling Hope

Albany County had a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases during the past 7 – 10 days, but the school system and the community continue to manage the incidences by responding appropriately to known cases.  The process of identification and quarantining possible close contact cases is not a novel containment strategy, and the Wyoming Department of Health is providing excellent guidance for school nurses and building level administrators. The school district will continue to implement mitigation strategies of maintaining a 6 foot physical distance, wearing face coverings, implementing proper hand hygiene, and ensuring satisfactory ventilation in school facilities.  The strategies are working, and I am mindful that even though we need to be diligent for the foreseeable future, there will be a time when we have greater certainty about COVID-19 and will know better how to manage the disease.

Please Do Your Part

The daily health checks will continue to be a part of mitigation strategies, and nearly 60% of parents are reporting every day.  The school board established a metric of greater than 90% daily reporting for our community as a condition to stay in Tier I and II.  We have some work to do in this area, but I am confident that we can increase the daily percentage. The daily health checks are a reminder to stay home when ill and an assurance to our community that we are collectively being responsible to protect our children and our community from the potential spread.

The good news is that we have been able to manage the incidence of COVID-19 with limited disruption. The day to day challenges of keeping staff and students safe sometimes take precedence over our focus on education, but we know whatever we do to keep our community safe will be beneficial for our students in the future.  We are working to improve the virtual learning model, and we will continue to strive to provide the best learning opportunities we can for our students.


ACSD#1 COVID-19 Update -- Monitoring Metrics

The school board approved a document at last night's school board meeting that outlines the metrics the school district is monitoring to assess the spread or transmission of COVID-19 in our community.  The following table is included in the document and shows the health metrics the district is using to maintain school operations in Tier I and Tier II.  Even though the school community has been affected by other positive cases of COVID-19 in the entire community, the school district has not had a positive case in one of the classrooms or school buildings for the first 10 days of school.  Some students and staff have been ordered to quarantine, but with the assistance of county and state health officials, we have been able to manage the possible spread of COVID-19. (Please see the COVID-19 update on September 8, 2020 for additional information.)

With the increasing number of active cases in our community, we are well aware of the presence of COVID-19 in our community. The school district is implementing effective mitigation strategies to reduce the risk of transmission, but we continue to ask and remind our community to be responsible and practices these same effective strategies to slow the spread of COVID-19 in our community: maintaining a social distance of 6 feet, using face coverings, washing hands frequently, and staying home when ill. 

Tier Mitigation Strategies Health Metrics Level of Risk
No Tier

(Schools Open, in-person learning)

No mitigation strategies

Activities and events proceed with no limitations

None Measured Highest Level of Risk of COVID-19
Tier I

(Schools Open, in-person learning)

·  Daily health screenings

·  Social Distancing (6 feet of separation between individuals should be maintained as much as possible)

·  Required use of face coverings indoors and outdoors

·  Frequent hand hygiene

·  Enhanced sanitation procedures

·  Proper room ventilation

·  Use of barriers

 

·  Less than 2% positive cases in the county

·  Less than 2 cases per day in seven day rolling average in the school community

·  Greater than 90% student and staff attendance

·  Greater than 90% daily health screenings completed

·  3 – 4 week supply of PPE and sanitation supplies

Moderate level of Risk of COVID-19
Tier II

(Schools Open, Hybrid Learning

A/B Schedule)

Same as above except:

·  Social distancing (6 feet of separation will be maintained with approximately 17 students per class)

Same as above Lower Level of Risk of COVID - 19
Tier III

(School Closed , Virtual Learning Only)

 

Mitigation Strategies are suspended since all students are learning remotely at home.

·  More than 5% positive cases in the county

·  More than 2 cases per day in seven day rolling average in the school community

·  Less than 80% student and staff attendance in Tier II

·  Less than 2 week supply of PPE and sanitation supplies

Lowest Level of Risk of COVID-19

ACSD#1 Day 10 -- COVID-19 Update

Dear ACSD#1 Families,

Wednesday, September 9, 2020 is the 10th day of the school year, and we have been able to provide in-person and virtual learning for our students by implementing a number of mitigation strategies to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.  The first ten days have not been without incident, but we continue to remain steadfast that our processes will ensure that we can continue to operate schools throughout the school year.  Here is some latest information about COVID-19 in our community.

COVID-19 Cases and Metrics

We continue to track COVID-19 cases in the ACSD#1 school community, the University of Wyoming community, and throughout Albany County.   The county continues to have less than 1% positive cases for the number of individuals tested in the two week rolling average.  This is a good metric, and Albany County has been in the bottom five counties in the state for the past few weeks.   You can find this metric on the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) website if you are interested.  In addition, we monitor the number of cases in our community, and this information is also found on the WDH website.

ACSD#1 has not seen a positive case of COVID-19 in a building, but that doesn’t mean we have not been affected. Prior to returning to school, we had one positive case with one of our employees and two other employees were ordered by the health department to quarantine for the 14 day period.  We also had a few families in our school community who were given health orders to stay home and this affected 15 students.  Last week we had six students who were out of school due to a health order quarantine. None of these individuals were in the schools.

I will continue to share this type of information, but please understand that we cannot share any other details. The Wyoming Department of Health cannot communicate who and where a COVID-19 case occurs.  This is a violation of state and federal law.  Similarly, school administrators cannot and will not communicate to staff or parents regarding cases.  The Wyoming Department of Health will notify individuals who are in imminent threat of exposure.  If you do not hear from the WDH, you do not have an imminent threat of exposure to COVID-19.

The Wyoming Department of Health recently updated their guidelines for addressing sick students or staff in the buildings and the guidance for staying home.  The guidelines have been consistent, but there have been some changes that have occurred in the last 30 days. The clearest change is the guideline that permits student and staff to return to school after 24 hours if they do not have any further symptoms.

Monitoring COVID-19 Metrics

A school board subcommittee developed metrics to determine when the school system can move out of Tier II or what metrics indicate that we need to move to Tier III.  The school board will consider these metrics during their regularly schedule board meeting on September 9, 2020.  It is still too early to decide about changes to Tier I and Tier II since we have recent activity in the university and greater community.  The item on the agenda for Wednesday evening is only to consider the metrics--not to change direction because of the metrics.

Daily Health Checks

Please continue to do the daily health pre-screenings.  This brief survey is an invaluable tool to remind our entire community to stay home when sick and the importance of protecting ourselves and each other. The CDC provides some useful information in a document that explains how best to protect yourself and others from exposure.

 

I know there remains a great deal of uncertainty, but I am confident that our systems are working to protect our students and staff.  We have processes in place to address ill students or staff at work, and we have a good communication link with state and county health officers to assist our administrators and nurses with addressing concerns about COVID-19.  We will continue to monitor the metrics related to the transmission of COVID-19, so we can determine when it is best for our secondary schools to move to five days of in-person instruction.

Stay healthy,

Jubal

 


School Reopening Plans -- Tier I (Five Days) for Elementary; Tier II (Hybrid 2-3 Days) for Secondary

Dear ACSD#1 Families:

We continue to work at a rapid pace to meet our desire to reopen schools on August 26, 2020.  This has been a busy week, and this communication highlights what we know and a few things that you can expect in the next couple of weeks.

Board Approved Reopening Start Plan for A/B Days for LMS and LHS

Our current plan is to start school on August 26, 2020 for a half day.  We will open all elementary schools, all rural schools, Rock River, UW Lab School, and Whiting High School as Tier I (five days a week of in-person instruction).  The board approved the reopening of Laramie Middle School and Laramie High School in Tier II (hybrid model) starting August 26, 2020.  The middle school and the high school will operate an alternating schedule (A/B Days), so we can reduce the number of students in the school buildings in order to meet social distancing guidelines established in the current state health order. The school district in consultation with the county health officer has established a threshold for 17 students per classroom in order to meet social distancing guidelines.

Students at Laramie Middle School and Laramie High School will be assigned to one of two cohorts of students.  The students who are assigned to cohort “A” will attend school in-person for two days a week, and they will work remotely through the Classroom Based Virtual Instruction Model for another three days a week.  The students in cohort “B” will attend in-person on the opposite days. Fridays will be reserved for specific cohorts of students who need additional assistance or for teachers to schedule labs or extended work time on projects (for example shop classes or AP classes). Students will also be able to complete weekly assignments remotely on Fridays.

As the schools work through the alternating day assignments, we understand that there may be families who have a significant hardship due to the alternating day schedule.  Please communicate your need with your child’s school.  The school district would not choose to operate an alternating A/B schedule unless the schedule provides our community with the safest path forward in this unprecedented time.

Laramie Middle and Laramie High Schools have already worked through assigning siblings to similar days to help families align schedules.  All schools will communicate with parents this week about schedules, start times, and expectations for in-person learning.

Classroom Based Virtual Instruction—Final Selection is Monday, August 24, 2020

We received over 3,200 responses to the preference survey indicating a choice of in-person learning or classroom based virtual instruction.  Parents indicated that 484 students (16%) would prefer to learn remotely with Classroom Based Virtual Instruction to start the year, and 2,394 (81%) indicated they preferred in-person learning.  85 parents (3%) expressed that they would prefer some other option for their children.

The preference survey was only an interest survey for planning and safety considerations, and there is time during this week to finalize your registration. We realize that people may change their decision given the continued uncertainty of COVID-19. To assist with your final decision, we posted additional information about Classroom Based Virtual Instruction on our website under the Frequently Asked Questions.

Parents and students who select in-person learning must adhere to the safety and health guidelines established by the county health officer and the school board.  These guidelines include completing a daily prescreening checklist, maintaining social distancing standards, wearing face coverings, and washing hands frequently.

Once the student and parent have made a final choice, we ask that parents and students commit to the choice through the first quarter. Parents and students must make a final decision by Monday, August 24, 2020 in order for the school district to ensure that all classes meet the social distancing requirements and provide the safest environment we can for students and teachers.

Power School Registration and Portal Features

The district will use the Power School Parent Portal to complete registration for this year.  It is vitally important that parents update address, phone, and email contact information in Power School prior to August 24, 2020, so that we can ensure the health and safety of all students.  The updated Power School registration link will be available starting Tuesday, August 18, 2020. There are some new features, so please access the Parent Portal and update your child’s information.  Please contact your child’s school if you have difficulty accessing the Power School Parent Portal.

The school district will use the Power School Parent Portal to record the distribution of Chromebooks for every student which also includes an acknowledgement of the Chromebook usage agreement. The portal will also be used for the required daily prescreening health checks, and parents will verify in Power School that their child will adhere to in-person learning health guidelines if they are attending school in-person.  The daily health checks will ask you if your child is showing symptoms related to COVID-19 or if your child has been potentially exposed to COVID-19. In either case, we ask that you keep your child home. These daily prescreening health checks will be a tangible reminder to put your child’s health and safety above all other considerations.

Transportation

The information collected on the preference survey also assisted the transportation department with plans to safely transport students to school.  The health guidelines for bus transportation continue to change, but the school district is presently working from the directive that social distancing and face coverings will be implemented on district buses, so the capacity of typical bus routes has decreased dramatically.  If you can transport your child to school that will be helpful as we adjust final plans this week, but please communicate with the transportation department if your child needs to be transported to school and you live in an area that meets state transportation eligibility guidelines.

Health and Safety Primary Importance

We know that there is still a great deal of uncertainty around COVID-19, but we believe that we are reopening in the safest manner we can to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19.  The summer school program operated successfully by adhering to social distancing guidelines, wearing face coverings, and implementing hand washing procedures. We believe that the guidance from the county health officer provides us the means to not only reopen schools successfully, but also mitigate the spread of COVID-19, so that schools can remain open for the entire school year.

The school board will review the status of Tier 1 (in-person at the elementary level) and Tier II (hybrid learning at the secondary level) frequently during the initial 14 days of the school year.  Events change rapidly, so the school district is poised to adapt to an online remote learning model if necessary.  If the mitigation strategies (social distancing, face coverings, hand hygiene, ventilation, and sanitation) are successful, and the state health orders relax to permit more students in a classroom and the school building, then the school board can make decisions to move secondary students to Tier I (full five day in-person learning).

Summary

The health and safety of our students and staff is the primary importance for reopening schools.  Please make a final decision regarding your choice of instructional model for the start of the year.  We need to know by Monday, August 24, 2020 whether your child is attending in-person or choosing Classroom Based Virtual Learning.

Secondly, we need you to access and update information in the Power School Parent Portal, so we can distribute a Chromebook to your child, and attain the required assurances from you regarding Chromebooks and In-Person Learning. The Power School Registration form will be available on Tuesday, August 18, 2020.

Finally, please let us know if we can provide clarification or assistance.  You can contact your child’s school or you can reach the school district by emailing us at info@acsd1.org.

Sincerely,

Jubal C. Yennie