First day feels (copy)

As kids return from the holiday break to school at Paintbrush Elementary some make their way to the playground while others wait by the wall for the bell to ring with their face agains the wall on Monday, Jan. 6, 2020.

Campbell County schools will remain closed through the end of the school year, which was was one of three important decisions made at a special meeting of school trustees Thursday evening.

The school board also decided to postpone graduations for the Campbell County School District high schools rather than canceling or holding them virtually, which also was discussed.

The tentative dates for graduation are now June 26 for Westwood High School and June 27 for Thunder Basin, Campbell County and Wright high schools.

Trustees also canceled proms for CCHS and TBHS, which were scheduled for May 9.

Trustees said many factors were weighed in making the decisions, which they said they felt motivated to make to give the community a plan moving forward.

“As much as I would like to see our staff and students together, I’m not sure it would be worth the risk,” said Superintendent Alex Ayers. “We would be putting potentially the largest gathering in our community (together), 1,000 students in some cases.

“I certainly couldn’t guarantee you proper social distancing.”

Reopening schools

When considering the reopening of schools, Ayers said the board examined the challenges of underlying health issues for students and staff, the ability to socially distance and the access to personal protective equipment in continuing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given that students are already settled in with their virtual learning plans and that a return to school buildings would only be for about 16 days, trustees said it’s best to finish out the school year through distance learning.

Also, the district has between 800 and 900 students with serious health issues, said Kip Farnum, the district’s director of student support services. Even if there’s a lifting of state restrictions after April 30, returning in large groups quickly could still put them at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19.

Transportation and busing kids to school was another concern. The district buses about 4,000 students to school every day. Ayers said after discussing the issue with Keith Chrans, head of transportation, the consensus was there’s no way to social distance with that many kids on buses.

The school district would also struggle to provide enough protective equipment like face masks for students and teachers. It now has 135 N95 masks and 890 adult masks, but does have plenty of cleaning supplies for the schools.

Continuing online through the end of the school year was approved unanimously by the board.

Canceling prom

The cancellation of prom also was a tough decision, but a necessary one, said Deputy Superintendent Kirby Eisenhauer.

“We’ve looked at this about every angle that we could. And just the nature of that event and trying to accommodate social distancing, there’s just not a way we could do that,” Eisenhauer said. “It’s just something, unfortunately, that I don’t see us being able to accomplish.”

There have been discussions about having some type of fall formal that would resemble prom and also help businesses like floral shops that depend on the event. But nothing has been decided.

The idea to postpone graduation was the “overwhelming” choice by parents rather than holding it virtually or canceling it, Eisenhaur said.

Graduation dates tentative

The dates for graduation also are tentative for now and will be set later.

Along with pushing graduation back, the board also talked about limiting graduates to four tickets each. But even that limitation would still bring about 1,300 people for Thunder Basin’s graduation, Eisenhauer said.

He also said that to maintain distancing, graduation should be held outside at the school’s stadium.

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(1) comment

justmyopinion

I believe that our School Board has had a very difficult series of decisions. I support their decisions and appreciate their concern for the safety and well being of all students, staff, parents, grandparents, and families. Thank-you for making these tough calls. You are appreciated.

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