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Youth Livestock Sale: 'Back to Basics' is more than enough
Bidding strong during overall subdued year for Campbell County Fair

An auction is capitalism distilled to its most basic parts: supply and demand. What the market will bear is immediately apparent.

It can be up one minute and down the next, with no discernible rhyme or reason. At times it feels generous. At others it feels cruel and unfair. As a result, displays of pure capitalism don’t seem likely to conjure the warm and fuzzies, but that’s just what happened at the Youth Livestock Sale at the Campbell County Fair.

The Youth Livestock Sale represented the tentpole event of this year’s fair after COVID-19 forced numerous cancellations of some of fairgoers’ favorite events. Signs that reminded attendees to maintain social distance were written in language befitting a fair: “Keep one horse apart” (with other versions revising the measuring stick to two goats or six chickens).

Over the course of more than five hours on Sunday, in the last gasps of the fair’s 100th year, more than 230 lots, from goats to sheep to steer and more, came up for bid and the work of almost as many 4-H and Future Farmers of America kids was rewarded.

Periodic updates reminded the attendees of their own generosity. By Lot 33 (out of 231), those in attendance had already pledged $75,000. Another update after 144 lots saw the total rise to $310,000. A mad rush of bidding drove the price for Shaya Beck’s 272-pound market swine to $14 per pound, and an announcer made it known that the overall total had sailed past $425,000.

Once the auctioneer called “sold” on the final animal of the day, the total was $525,581.25. More than $225,000 of that came from beef sales, and another $217,000 came from swine sales.

That was short of last year’s $583,242.

Reo Edwards earned the highest price for a beef sale at $11,264 bought by Dr. Davis ENT. Kya Long earned the highest price for a swine sale at $4,112 bought by Black Rock Mine Service, LLC.

Cam-plex’s Central Pavilion was packed with people in three sets of grandstands looking down over the dirt floor that once had a message — Back to Basics — written colorfully in it before the scuffling feet and hooves scattered the message into oblivion. What stands out most was the small army of kids dressed in vibrantly white dress shirts and black jeans, the official uniform for those competing as a part of 4-H. They were everywhere.

The pavilion is cacophonous, with hundreds of fair attendees and dozens of animals under the same roof. The auctioneer is a symphony unto himself, part conductor and part instrument. His rolling chant, his cattle rattle, dominates over all other sounds and sets the pace for the day. Every now and then, an auctioneer would speak to an exhibitor.

When Jayden Haugen’s steer tried to throw its weight around — all 1,417 pounds of it — and make her life difficult, the auctioneer said, “Just let him lie down; we can still sell him that way,” which drew a laugh from the audience but Haugen didn’t need to take him up on the offer.

Behind the center grandstand is an array of tables and chairs at which families gather to eat some of the fair’s concessions one last time for the year. One side of the same area has a row of pens beneath handwritten signs on neon yellow poster boards advertising 2020 Campbell County Supreme Row, a place of distinction for the grand champions to be on display.

One of those pens contains Marlin, named after the father clown fish in “Finding Nemo,” the grand champion market lamb that belongs to Shaylee Loveland. He was also the reserve champion in showmanship; apparently lambs can be show-offs when they want. He fetches $21 for each of his 132 pounds, netting Loveland, 12, a tidy sum.

She smiled at the accomplishment, but her words were the practiced nonchalance of someone used to winning, as she had last year’s grand champion lamb as well. She was already looking ahead to next year, planning on reinvesting her winnings into her next lamb. Or possibly a steer.

“I like experiencing new things,” Loveland said about the thought of getting different animals after repeat grand championships in lambs. “It just makes me more responsible at home.”

Caroline Johnson, 17, has been participating in the fair for nine years, and this year’s Boer-Nubian cross earned her the most of any animal she’s ever shown, she said.

The money, the Westwood student said, is going to be saved for college. She already has enrolled in classes at Gillette College while still in high school, and as she spoke, the goat stood up on its back legs and placed its front legs on her back, just leaning against her, seemingly content to stay there until she fed it.

Outside the open bay door that leads into the sale ring, Addison Teigen looked sad. She was waiting in line to show her lamb Spot. Teigen, 10, got a hug from an older girl. The girl told Teigen it’s OK to cry; she does it every year.

She said she’ll miss Spot the most.

“I try to cry before so I don’t cry during,” Teigen said. “I didn’t cry enough before,” she said as she lowered her head.

Teigen’s older sister, Emily, was talking lambs with Kylie Davies after Davies’ lamb, Jasper, had just earned $12 per pound. The bidder also returned the lamb to Davies, and the extra time with Jasper seemed to be a happy thought for Davies.

In the middle of the conversation, Emily turned to ask a boy with a face red from crying if he needed a hug.

“It’s a really tough time for all of us, losing animals,” Davies said.

The feeling got worse as the animals got bigger, she said. Chickens and rabbits didn’t really register, but the lambs were a different story.

Emily, 16, stood with her lamb Woodrow, named for the character in Larry McMurtry’s famous “Lonesome Dove.” She showed off a new belt buckle, one that memorialized Bobbi Jo Heald, the longtime fair coordinator who died in May 2019. Emily won the belt buckle for showmanship in sheep. She won it last year, too, which is fitting because she said Heald was her inspiration.

“Bobbi Jo got me started in showing sheep,” Emily said. “She was there every step of the way.”

Kimberly Huddleston was one of numerous participants who pulled double duty. She wore the 4-H uniform of a crisp white shirt and black slacks, but she added to it a necktie and a navy blue corduroy jacket that designated her as an FFA competitor as well. She showed four pigs at this year’s fair, two in 4-H shows and two in FFA shows.

COVID-19 had radically affected her senior year at Campbell County High School, and the fair was, in many ways, an extension of that. She’d had very few meetings with FFA, and though she was competing with FFA at the moment, her heart seemed to be with her 4-H experiences.

She was already talking in a way that surely animates many Campbell County residents.

“I’m sad,” Huddleston, 18, said. “If I don’t come back [to the fair] as a 4-H member, I’ll definitely come back as a community member to support my friends who are in 4-H.”

She estimated the number is between 30-50 friends she’ll be leaving behind in 4-H, many of them formed from her years as a 4-H camp counselor in the summers.

Cooper Hurley, 11, sold one of his two pigs, and he celebrated with the exuberance of a quarterback who’d just thrown the game-winning touchdown. His eyes lit up when he learned what the math actually meant: $6.75 per pound when the pig is a perfect 285 pounds equals a lot of money ($1,923).

He ran down the narrow aisle behind one of the grandstands, gesticulating his arms to match the sing-song way he was reciting the amount over and over again. Nobody who passed by him seemed to know what he was talking about, but then again, he wasn’t talking to them anyway.

The excitement was tempered, as ever, by the immense responsibility of caring for a living creature, even more important now that it technically belonged to someone else.

“I’ve got to go clean my pen,” he said as he ran away.

From the pride of accomplishment on a kid’s face and kindness directed at friends who were struggling to unmatched excitement and a community’s simple togetherness in the face of a global pandemic, it seemed like everyone in attendance for the Youth Livestock Sale got what they paid for and then some.

Summer school prepares students, parents, educators for schools reopening in fall

Fridays are a blessed day in the week of an educator, and summer school Fridays are no exception. The teachers outside the doors of Hillcrest Elementary School, exchanging “Happy Fridays” that sound a bit like a sigh of relief, are proof of this idea.

A beautiful morning greeted the students as they get off the bus. It was cool and calm, the American and state flags hanging limp above the main entrance.

The students filled the space with an energy that, until last week, had not been seen at the school since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Some leapt from buses and broke into a sprint, faces stretched wide with smiles, until a sweet-sounding teacher reminded them that at school we walk.

One student rubs sleep out of his eyes and wanders around in an early morning fogginess, unsure of which direction to go. One had no supplies, no backpack or anything, save for a disposable face mask looped over his wrist like a bracelet.

The students, in backpacks that touched the backs of their knees, approached the school doors with gusto. There were lots of primary colors. Lots of super heroes. Lots of pink. Lots of sparkles. They entered the school and went straight to their classrooms, where their temperatures were promptly checked and breakfast was served.

Friday marked the end of the first week of summer school. It looked slightly different than it has in years past. For example, it’s being held at the end of July instead of early June. It’s operating at 13 locations (17 if including the junior and high schools’ Extended School Year students, or students with an Individualized Educational Plan) instead of the typical two. Instead of running for four days a week for three weeks, this year’s summer school is running five days a week for two weeks.

Campbell County School District is using summer school as one big lesson on what the fall might bring with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, and class back in session.

Test run for fall

Brandon Crosby, the newly installed director of curriculum assessment and professional development, said the first week of summer school began with 549 kindergarten through fifth grade students. The numbers went up slightly as the week progressed, topping out at 569. Crosby said the numbers were consistent with the previous three years’ average attendance of 580.

Elementary students going through summer school were recommended by their teachers following district assessments administered in the third quarter of the school year, so COVID-19 didn’t affect this year’s recommendations. The number of recommendations averaged between 800-900 students, and this year’s recommendations were within that range.

Crosby said COVID-19 has provided some unexpected benefits to summer school, especially when it came to planning. Building principals already were meeting constantly because they needed to plan for the ever-changing nature of the school year in the spring and constant efforts to get a plan in place for the fall. He said it made the summer school planning actually easier than it ordinarily would be.

Kristina Shields, the Extended School Year principal for summer school, echoed that sentiment.

“I can get teachers to hop onto a Zoom with a lot more consistency than I can to bring them into a building, especially in the summer,” Shields said.

Though summer school normally operates at only two locations, Crosby said teachers have enjoyed being at their home schools for this year’s summer school. The move was to reduce class sizes due to COVID-19 concerns.

The district may not change over to running summer school at every location under normal circumstances, but Crosby said it’s been beneficial this year due to its unique circumstances.

He used the example of his wife, who is a first grade teacher at Sunflower Elementary and is working with the same kids in summer school that she taught in the regular school year.

“She knows exactly where they were and what she was covering through COVID, and then she can support them getting ready for second grade,” Crosby said.

While the normal system for summer school works very well, there was an added level of engagement from the teachers who got to continue working with their students after circumstances led to a somewhat unfulfilling end to the school year.

“Teachers feel — I don’t know if ‘guilty’ is the right word — because they know adaptive learning wasn’t as effective as them being in the classroom,” he said.

Like summer school adaptations, there are other expectations where the district’s response to COVID-19 will improve the educational experience for students, parents and faculty.

COVID-19 has accelerated district plans to adopt a new learning management system called Schoology. Teachers can collaborate lesson plans and materials through the system. It connects with the schools’ information system, so when assignments are graded in Schoology, those grades immediately go into the grade book.

Parents will have access to the system as well, and they will be able to see what students are doing in class and how they’re progressing.

Technology is another area that saw existing plans come into place more quickly.

“There’s definitely an urgency now that wasn’t there before,” Shields said.

“In the fall, once the devices get here, every student will be one-to-one,” Crosby said, meaning that each student in the district will have his or her own device provided by the district.

Pushing the summer school year back to the end of July was a beneficial decision for the district.

“We’ve had to think about every detail,” Shields said. “We’ve had to be much more intentional this year, which has made it run a lot smoother. I think the combination of our level of concern being raised as well as additional time to prepare has made an impact.”

Crosby said he had anxiety over the numerous unknowns before summer school started, but after a week of classes and new protocols, he was confident and hopeful for the fall because of how well summer school has gone so far.

One of the newest protocols is the taking of students’ temperatures at the school buildings, which was not originally in the district’s reopening plan but was added by the Campbell County School District Board of Trustees on July 15.

“We’ve added it, and we’ve provided staff with thermometers, and it’s gone extremely well,” Crosby said. “They divide and conquer. They’re checking every kid, they have a list and it’s done quickly.

The new normal

A person can’t take many steps through Hillcrest’s main entrance before passing the nurse’s office. It’s almost as if the school nurse’s elevated role in the 2020 school year was predicted by her office’s front-and-center location in the building.

Heidi Hunter, RN, BSN, occupies that office. Because summer school was spread out across the district, this is her first year to work summer school.

She’d stay busy even in a slow year, dealing with the students’ scheduled medications, random injuries and upset stomachs. But Hunter, like everyone else, is using summer school as a test run for new procedures to deal with the possibility of a student presenting with symptoms of COVID-19.

She now has two offices. Her normal office is where she’ll conduct business as usual. The other office is through a back door and down a hall a short distance. It’s a sparsely furnished room to maximize space. According to the district’s reopening plan, the room is known as the Symptomatic Screening Room, a dedicated space for students presenting with COVID-19 symptoms to wait until their parents can pick them up.

The room isn’t the only new addition to Hunter’s routine. She’s still fine-tuning the procedures for students and teachers to respond to COVID-19 concerns. For instance, a student came to her on the first Thursday because of a cough, and she put the Symptomatic Screening Room to use.

She said the procedures worked decently well. The student came down to her office with a mask on, as dictated by the district’s reopening plan. But she didn’t get a call ahead of time from the teacher, which is a procedure that will need to be in place to make for the most efficient procedure possible in dealing with potential COVID-19 concerns.

Parents will be key to a successful school year, Hunter said.

“We’re really going to have to educate parents on, ‘Your child will probably be sent home more than normal this year. You need to be not sending your child to school when they are sick,’” Hunter said.

When the student came to her with a cough and had to be sent home, it took nearly two hours for the student’s parents to pick him up, which isn’t going to be feasible during the school year, she said.

Lluvia Enriquez is one such parent. A school district employee, she works as a translator at Campbell County High School.

Her son, 11, and her daughter, 7, attend Meadowlark Elementary. He’ll be starting fifth grade, and she’ll be starting second grade. Masks are on her mind as she thinks about what the fall semester will bring.

“There will be a lot more people in the building, but I feel a kid can wear a mask for a short time when social distancing is not possible,” Enriquez said. “But the way they have it set up with the desks and everything, I don’t think a kid’s going to have to wear a mask the whole day.”

She acknowledged doubts that her second grader will keep a mask on for an entire eight-hour school day, but she thinks her daughter can manage moderate use of the mask during the day with reminders from her teachers.

Both she and her children wanted school to be in-person this fall, but she’s had to explain to them what it might look like.

“Being gone for such a long period of time and not being able to come back, trying to get them to understand that in order to come back, we kind of have to follow some new rules,” she said. “There’s new expectations that have to be in place in order for us to come back. I guess my question to (my kids) is, ‘Do we want to come back to school? Or do we want to keep doing online?’”

Enriquez’s children didn’t like the online learning that defined the final weeks of the past school year. For her son, English is a second language, so reading assignments off a screen without the interaction and back and forth with the teacher was difficult for him.

“He does better with talking to people,” she said.

She said that online learning placed a great deal of responsibility on parents to lead the lessons, and that was complicated when she was trying to do her job at the same time.

“I have to do my job, and then I couldn’t have my whole attention on them, doing Zoom meetings and everything at different times,” she said. “Having a couple of kids [to home school] is hard.”

Education is the name of the game for schools, but both Crosby and Shields believe that the school year’s success depends on educating not only the students but also the parents as well.

“We’ve got to educate our parents and we’ve got to tell them,” Crosby said. “We want our kids in school. We don’t want to lose them. We don’t want a parent to be afraid because they don’t know what we’re doing.”

If summer school is the first lesson in that ongoing effort, students and parents have earned stellar marks thus far.

News Record Photo/Jake Goodrick

Thunder Basin High School graduates Jersie Taylor, from left, Molly Strub and Meadow Kuntz have played on the same basketball teams since third grade. Now they’re headed to separate colleges in the fall.

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Face masks requirement looks more likely as the school year nears

Face coverings are looking more and more like a certainty for Campbell County School District students this fall.

The district received about 45,000 masks and 1,500 isolation gowns Friday shipped to Campbell County Public Health, said Randy Bury, the county’s public health response coordinator.

The masks arrived just two days after Gov. Mark Gordon extended the state’s public health orders through Aug. 15. It was the governor’s ninth extension and modification of the public health orders he originally put in place in March.

The order includes instructions for elementary and secondary schools outlining that to have in-person instruction, schools must enforce social distancing whenever feasible. When social distancing is not feasible, the orders say that “students, teachers and school staff shall wear face coverings both indoors and outdoors.”

The order allows for various exceptions to the mask mandate, such as students with medical conditions for whom wearing a face mask “could cause harm or dangerously obstruct breathing,” students who have an Individualized Educational Plan and students engaged in athletic activities.

Since the district’s school year doesn’t start until Aug. 24 and there is no language in any order that extends that far into the future, it is premature to say that masks will be required during the school year. But the probability increases as COVID-19 cases continue to grow across the state.

Kirby Eisenhauer, the district’s deputy superintendent, acknowledged that masks are likely for the school year, although state public health officials continue to update guidance regularly.

“Although the decision to wear face coverings is not ours to make, CCSD will follow the orders of Governor Gordon in order to get our students back in our classrooms,” Eisenhauer wrote in an email. “Per the order, face coverings will only be required when 6 feet of social distancing cannot be maintained.”

The reality of how school buildings were designed, in combination with schools’ student populations, will be big factors in the protocols in place at each individual building.

“Unfortunately, the designs of our buildings were not intended to accommodate social distancing,” Eisenhauer wrote. “However, we are maximizing our efforts to limit the amount of time a student may have to wear the covering. We will also utilize exemptions where allowable.”

Kip Farnum, director of student support services, agreed with the assessment.

“We are going to have some class sizes where keeping students 6 feet apart is not possible,” Farnum said.

He said it will depend on individual school building layouts and number of students, neither of which the district can control. Certain schools, like Campbell County High School, are going to “struggle here and there trying to maintain social distancing,” Farnum said.

Individual schools will submit building plans and protocols to Eisenhauer by Friday, and those plans will be made public to the students and parents of those respective schools so they will know what to expect when the school year starts.

The personal protective equipment delivered to the district was sent as part of an effort by various state agencies. The Wyoming Office of Homeland Security, the Wyoming Department of Health and the Wyoming Department of Education announced a joint effort to deliver 500,000 face coverings to school districts around the state, according to a press release from the Wyoming Department of Education.

Bury said the cloth face masks were manufactured by Hanes, the American company known mostly for its underwear products.

Farnum said there are about 9,000 students in the district, so the shipment should provide an initial distribution of three masks per student, with the remainder held over in case students lose or damage them.

Farnum also said the district has about 30,000 procedure masks, which are the kind surgeons might use during a procedure. They’re reusable to a certain extent, Farnum said, but not like cloth face masks, which can be washed and reused many times.