Albany County School District No. 1 will bring students back into classrooms when schools reopen in August, according to a plan released Thursday.
Students in kindergarten through fifth grade would come to school every day under the plan. Older students would spend alternate days at school and at home Monday through Thursday, and students who are at risk of falling behind would come into schools on Friday for intensive instruction.
The district’s plan was released one day after Wyoming released guidelines on Wednesday about reopening schools across the state.
The plan could change until the beginning of the school year or later, said Jubal Yennie, the district superintendent. The district will send out updates to parents and community members every two weeks between now and the start of classes on August 26.
“This is our approach right now,” Yennie said. “That approach could change weekly.”
The district’s emphasis is its goal “to open schools as close to normal as possible.” That goal is printed in large bold letters on the first page of the plan.
“Our most important part of this was that we needed to communicate to our community that we’re going to do everything we can to get back to school,” Yennie said. “In-person learning is the greater value to students.”
Six teams within the district have worked since May 1 on the various aspects of reopening schools during the pandemic, Yennie said. These teams are comprised of administrators, teachers, nurses, the county health officer and community members, and they will continue to meet until the pandemic has ended.
The district determined that social distancing will be more difficult in its secondary school buildings, such as Laramie Middle School and Laramie High School. Alternating class days will be used under the current plan, but Yennie said that his office is looking for ways to bring all students to school every day while maintaining safe practices.
The classrooms in both Laramie Middle School and Laramie High School can handle approximately 20 students each with social distancing, according to the plan. Yennie said that many classes usually have more than 20 students in a room at a time.
Inside schools, students, teachers and staff will see some changes compared to past years, under the district’s plan.
Students will be kept six feet apart in classrooms and in other parts of school buildings when distancing is possible. Where distancing is not possible, students will have to wear masks or other face coverings.
Staff will be required to wear masks at all times when they are in common areas.
More hand sanitizer stations will be available throughout school buildings, and handwashing procedures will be taught. There will be increased cleaning throughout schools, particularly on high touch surfaces. Elementary school students will be asked to wash their hands every hour.
The measures to limit infection in schools even extend to classroom doors, which will be kept open as much as possible to reduce the number of times that someone touches doorknobs.
A number of details have yet to be worked out under the plan, and more information on them will be released in the coming weeks.
Activities for secondary students on days that they are at home have yet to be finalized. Guidelines released by the state Wednesday mention both synchronous learning, in which a student at home calls into class, and asynchronous learning, where a student completes activities on his or her own. A mix of these practices might be in use this year, Yennie said.
Additional policies for maximizing the amount of time that students are in school while minimizing the likelihood of infection will be considered going forward, Yennie said. This includes staggered start times, especially at secondary schools.
Class schedules might be altered to more efficiently “compartmentalize” groups of students, Yennie said. This means that students might be in contact with fewer other students than usual, so that any outbreaks of the coronavirus would be contained to one chunk of a school’s student body.
Some students with individualized education plans will require other accommodations this year, Yennie said. The district is also developing plans for students who do not wish to come into school buildings because they or their family members are at an elevated health risk.
The district will release modified absence policies for students and staff closer to the start of the school year.
The full text of the district’s reopening plan is available on the coronavirus section of its website.