School to Implement Smart Start Reopening Plan
Thursday, August 06, 2020
By Gazette Assistant Publisher/Editor Nicholas Trandahl “Your action tonight means we’re open for business,” Superintendent Clark Coberly told the members of the School Board during a special meeting of the Weston County School District No. 7 Board of Trustees on Wednesday, July 29th. The action the Superintendent referred to was the passage of the 2020-2021 Smart Start Plan. Following prior meetings by a District Smart Start Plan Committee, discussions with District staff and faculty, two community meetings, and direction from the Wyoming Department of Health, District No. 7 has formulated a reopening plan to best serve the needs of Upton students, while also taking into account the risks and safety needs during the COVID-19 pandemic that caused some difficulty to the conclusion of the 2019-2020 school year in the District and around the nation.
The District’s Smart Start Plan, a “living” document that will be updated according to guidelines put out by the State, Federal Government, and the CDC, can be opened and read on the District’s website at www.weston7.org. Much like has been previously discussed in school board meetings and conversations with Superintendent Coberly reported in the Gazette, the plan lays out a three-tiered approach to instruction during the upcoming school year, including a variety of factors such as how students will be instructed and graded, special education, technology, logistics, substitute teachers, transportation, sanitation, and student and family support.
Upton schools are beginning the 2020-2021 school year on August 24th under Phase I. Superintendent Coberly stated that administration was trying to utilize the small size of Upton schools to their advantage in physical distancing students.
Phase I, the first tier, features traditional instruction recognizable by students, parents, and faculty of Upton schools but with slight modifications, including the use of school-issued protective face coverings when physical distancing isn’t possible, such as in line for lunch and during bus transportation. Other modifications include increased cleaning and sanitization, increased tech, and altered lunch operations. Elementary lunch will consist of some grades (to be determined) eating in the cafeteria two days of the week and alternating with other grades to eat in classrooms two days a week. This will be done to keep the number of students in the cafeteria to a minimum. Fortunately, the Upton Middle School has a low enough number of students to all eat in the cafeteria at once without alternating. Freshmen in Upton High School will have lunch in the Commons, while upperclassmen can eat their lunch in assigned rooms (to be determined) or off campus. All breakfast will be to-go.
Phase II involves a hybrid mode of instruction with County and State Health Departments beginning to call the shots. This second tier would be implemented if the risk of the pandemic to our community increased. Modifications from Phase I would include that students with health conditions will receive instruction from home virtually, with classroom-based virtual education available. Other modifications would include screening temperature and wellness checks and increased family support, counseling to address mental health, and professional development for families regarding tech and student support.
Phase III would be implemented when the pandemic poses and even higher risk to the community and is similar to what happened at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in the last few months of the 2019-2020 school year with full distancing taking affect. During this third, most extreme tier, the Wyoming Department of Education-approved Adaptive Learning Plan would be used, featuring virtual instruction for students and staff. Grading would change from standard grading to the demonstration of proficiency in priority standards. Attendance would be based on if a student actively takes part in virtual classes and completes schoolwork.
As for the virtual education, the District’s Smart Start Plan uses the “Classroom-Base Virtual Education” platform outlined in Wyoming Chapter 41 Virtual Education Rules to provide quality instruction. Virtual education can be used in all three phases of the plan, and is, according to Superintendent Coberly, what allowed Upton High School to continue to operate as-is during the onset of the pandemic in the 2019-2020 school year. “We’re going to be good to go,” stated the Superintendent optimistically during the meeting. He added that students without virtual means will still be able to complete packets of schoolwork.
Physical education in the upcoming school year will literally be a breath of fresh air, as instruction will be done outside as much as possible and practical. Band will essentially continue unaffected, though students will be somewhat spaced out in the band room. Choir, however, may utilize the auditorium for instruction to provide adequate spacing for Upton’s student vocalists.
Trustee Curtis Rankin asked about sports for the upcoming school year, and Superintendent Coberly answered that there will be sports programs for the majority of Wyoming schools, though he did caution that crowd-size and spacing may be restricted and screening fans as they enter events may be implemented, though the idea wasn’t being too well received by the public.
Soon after the upcoming school year is underway, students will be assessed to see if and how severely their academic needs were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic at the end of the 2019-2020 school year. Students in need academically will be able to attend instruction on Fridays. More teachers will also be working on Fridays, with increased hours being compensated with CARES funding.
After a thorough discussion of the plan, Trustee Mark Mitchell moved to approve the District Smart Start Plan for the 2020-2021 School Year. The motion was seconded by Trustee Ty Miller, and the motion carried. To read the full details of the 48-page plan, visit the District’s website at www.weston7. org.