School bus

CARBON COUNTY – Wyoming students will not be required to make up lost time through April 3 due to widespread closures resulting from the spread of the COVID-19 virus, according to the Wyoming Department of Education.

Schools in both Carbon County School District 1 and Carbon County School District 2 have been closed since March 16. Because of spring break, which was planned for the unexpected closure period, students will miss around a dozen school days in each district. Gov. Mark Gordon initially recommended all schools close on March 15, but left the decision to close up to local districts.

On March 19, however, the governor issued an order that mandated all schools close, along with bars, restaurants, theaters, gymnasiums and some child care facilities.

“It is an absolute fact that social distancing slows the growth of coronavirus disease,” Gordon said. “I very much appreciate the willingness of our state’s residents to comply with this action. Particularly because it is now becoming clear that young adults 18-50 are also at risk of being hospitalized from COVID-19.”

The closure order remains in effect until April 3.

“It remains to be determined what the situation will be after April 3,” Michelle Panos, communications director with the Wyoming Department of Education said Tuesday. “We anticipate the governor, state superintendent, and state health officer providing guidance next week for post-April 3.”

On March 20, the U.S. Department of Education granted Wyoming a waiver from some federal assessment and accountability requirements in light of the widespread school closures. As a result, Wyoming students will not take the statewide WY-TOPP assessment this spring and no formal accountability determinations will be made for the 2019-20 school year.

“CCSD#2 is working to develop online learning… for full implementation on April 3rd if necessary,” Superintendent Jim Copeland said in an email message to the district Monday, adding that there are online learning resources listed on the district’s website.

“Please use these online options while we are working on an educational framework that we plan to roll out sometime next week – which will be used if school closures are extended,” he said. “Rest assured that we are working to provide as much as we can – as soon as possible — that continues the educational program for our students. For those who do not have internet, we are working on options for those households as well.”

The WDE will continue to work to offer ACT testing opportunities for high school students, who often need the test for college admissions. Schools will not be required to test all grade 11 students this spring, but are encouraged to offer ACT testing options if possible. The state testing dates in March have been canceled. At this time, the WDE is recommending changing ACT assessment dates using the third option – April 21 – and administering the on-line version.

“By removing this testing burden from schools, districts will be better able to continue to focus on their students’ immediate needs during this unprecedented time,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.

State officials and superintendents from across the state have been coming together for online Zoo, meetings several times a week, offering continued guidance to local educators.

“The Zoom calls with superintendents are to discuss many aspects of district operations during the closure such as testing, instruction, transportation, special education, data reporting and meal service,” Panos said.

The WDE is regularly issuing updates to superintendents that recap the guidance discussed on the ZOOM meetings, Panos said, which are available to the public on the WDE COVID-19 Resources page under “WDE Updates.”

The governor has also formed a COVID-19 “Education Task Force” that includes Balow, Wyoming Department of Education Chief of Staff Dicky Shanor, University of Wyoming Interim President Neil Theobald, Community College Commission Director Dr. Sandra Caldwell, Department of Family Services Director Korin Schmidt and the governor’s education policy advisor Lachelle Brant.

The task force has been asked to create a smooth transition for students and parents from pre-K to college age, and to communicate relevant, meaningful resources about child care, educational options and post-secondary education in a centralized, online location. The first meeting was held last week, and this week, the task force will discuss the formation of ad hoc groups of superintendents to assist with various topics.

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