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Teton County students will have to wait to find out if they can head back to school after spring break.

At an emergency meeting of the Teton County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees on Wednesday night, Superintendent Gillian Chapman updated trustees on the district’s remote education plans. She described how the district is preparing for an extended closure, and said the decision would be made in the coming days.

“The plan we did for [the] weeks of March 16 and April 6, that was certainly a great effort by our staff on very short notice,” she told the board. “And we realized if the closures are extended, the learning plans would need to be much more detailed.”

In all, 201 participants called in to hear the district’s first digitally conducted meeting. Chapman applauded the work of teachers, who moved from an in-person blended learning model — in which educators use digital tools in their classrooms — to a distance-education model essentially over a weekend.

However, should students need to be at home for several weeks, teachers and administrators will need ways to increase one-on-one learning, maintain stricter schedules and move more lessons online. That’s all doable, Chapman said, but it will require a strengthening of the district’s distance learning plans, which can be found at TCSD.org, where you can also find archived video of the meeting.

“It’s important for students to have structure, for parents and teachers to have structure,” Chapman said.

Even though the possibility of returning to school April 6 hasn’t been ruled out, big changes have been made regarding the WY-TOPP summative assessment. Based on relaxed U.S. Department of Education accountability standards due to the outbreak, Teton County students (and others in Wyoming) will not need to take the end-of-year standardized test.

High school students who will take other assessments can anticipate changes to those as well. All juniors take the ACT, a standardized test many colleges use as an entrance requirement. Usually an in-person exam, it will be delayed — likely until the summer — and moved to a digital format.

For high school students taking advanced placement classes, which give college credit, the AP exams will still happen, but they will be shortened to just 45 minutes and will cover only the material taught in the first half of the year.

Following the discussion about testing, the conversation moved back to the question on everyone’s minds.

“Do we have complete control of when we decide to reopen or stay closed?” Trustee Janine Bay Teske asked Chapman.

Yes and no, she replied. The Wyoming Department of Education has indicated that local control is important and each school district’s situation is unique. However, Chapman said she expected state government officials would issue a recommendation by the end of the week meant to influence local districts’ decisions.

To that end, the board of trustees set another meeting for 5 p.m. Wednesday, which will be offered digitally through Webex. A link should be available on the the district website the day of the meeting.

“All the guidance we are receiving,” she said, “is that we will receive a recommendation to extend the closure beyond April 3.”

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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