Kids in Wyoming will go to school this fall, but whether they do so in a classroom is anybody’s guess.

State Superintendent Jillian Balow presented the Smart Start school-

reopening plan at Gov. Mark Gordon’s Wednesday press conference.

“I hear one question and one question only in every conversation and that is, ‘Will schools open in the fall?’ ” she said. “Almost always their question is followed by a comment, something like, ‘They really need to. Kids have got to get back to school,’ and I couldn’t agree more.”

The plan has three tiers: The first is kids in classrooms, with caveats for high-risk students or localized outbreaks, while the second is a hybrid model with some in-classroom and some distance learning. The third tier is full-time distance education like what students did this past spring.

The 25-page plan outlines the steps schools would need to take to reopen, though it is impossible to know whether viral conditions in the fall will allow it. In large part, it is similar to the plan Teton County School District No. 1 unveiled at a school board workshop last week.

Should schools be able to fully reopen in the fall, the extra staffing and sanitation will be expensive. Balow said some CARES Act money exists for them to recover some costs incurred during the pandemic.

But she also alluded to the tenuous financial situation in Wyoming, saying districts were already “reprioritizing funds” to cover the added costs. In layman’s terms, that means they are taking money from parts of their budgets to pay for extra custodians, temperature monitoring equipment and other COVID-related needs.

Balow expressed hope that districts would evolve following the pandemic, regardless of what tier they reopen at.

“I’m confident that we will be successful, not only in reopening schools as we knew them,” she said, “but also transforming our school system to better address the challenges that we faced and incorporate some of the successes and lessons that we’ve learned.”

Contact Tom Hallberg at 732-7079 or thallberg@jhnewsandguide.com.

Tom Hallberg covers a little bit of everything, from skiing to long-form feature stories. A Teton Valley, Idaho, transplant by way of Portland and Bend, Oregon, he spends his time outside work writing fiction, splitboarding and climbing.

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