Teton County School District No. 1

The COVID-19 pandemic has led the school district to update its crisis plan.

The plan — which covers everything from disease outbreaks to active shooters — and the school board policy that requires the district to have a plan previously referenced only pandemic influenza in the section about infectious diseases.

As everyone has learned in recent weeks, the flu isn’t the only outbreak that can grind society to a halt.

“We made some of those revisions based on what we’ve learned, so it fits more situations,” Teton County School District No. 1 Superintendent Gillian Chapman said.

The district board of trustees approved the change last week at its Wednesday meeting. New rules dictate what level of response the district can take, up to the closure of buildings, and how employees with health conditions may alter their workloads.

The policy says that those who are unable to come in to work will be given the option to telework, if possible. However, if they and their supervisor are not able to come to an arrangement, they may also be able to take leave.

District administrators are able to close schools to contain an infectious outbreak if necessary, but the board made one amendment to the policy. The original policy didn’t stipulate who would reopen schools; trustees asked that they be given that responsibility.

One point of discussion during the meeting was a section regarding liability.

“With the primary duty of providing an education and following the outlined directives of the Teton County Health Officer and Wyoming Department of Education, the district is not liable if employees or students are negatively impacted by an epidemic or pandemic,” the policy now reads.

A section lower in the policy also states the district is not liable should employees or students fall ill.

District attorney Sara Van Genderen told the board the National School Board Association recommended the waiver of liability be included.

Chapman said schools already have protections as semi-governmental agencies, but they don’t have carte blanche. During a pandemic, guidance comes from agencies such as the Wyoming Department of Health and county public health officials. In doing its best to protect students and staff, the district’s responsibility would be to act in accordance with any such guidance.

“If we have clear protocol and we follow that protocol, that provides some element of protection,” Chapman said.

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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