Jackson Hole High School

Jackson Hole High School

Students might have more in-class learning soon.

At its regular monthly meeting Wednesday, the Teton County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees set a special meeting for 6 p.m. Feb. 18 to discuss bringing middle and high school students back to the classroom four days a week.

Trustee Bill Scarlett raised the idea, citing the outlier status of Teton County’s hybrid schedule.

“At the end of tonight, we will be the only school district in Wyoming that doesn’t have the middle and high schoolers going most of the time,” he said.

Following a post-holiday COVID-19 spike, Teton County has been Wyoming’s hardest hit county, with the highest number of active cases, despite being the ninth most populous. Underscoring the severity, the county added a new “critical” risk level in January.

Now, however, cases are dropping at a rapid clip, and the county on Thursday moved to orange, or “moderate” risk.

The Teton County Health Department reported 198 new COVID-19 cases in the past two weeks, a 60% decrease from 494 reported in the previous two weeks.

With this week’s announcement that teachers will be able to get vaccinated starting in late February, Scarlett said it’s time to bring students back for more classroom days. As a parent, he said, he sees the hybrid schedule is not meeting students’ needs.

“We are failing our constitutional responsibility of providing our kids an adequate and equitable education,” he said.

Board Chairman Keith Gingery said Thursday that the coming special meeting will likely be more of a discussion, although the board could take action.

Scarlett asked the board to consider three items: middle and high school students going to a four-day, in-person schedule March 1; making the week after spring break virtual to mitigate viral transmission risks from travel; and discussing sending students back full time at its next regular meeting April 13.

Should the board agree to the four-day-a-week idea, teachers would be in the middle of their vaccination regimen. Communications Director Charlotte Reynolds told the board that teachers should get their first doses at mass vaccination clinics Feb. 20 and Feb. 27. Depending on which vaccine they receive, their second doses would come three or four weeks later.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have been shown to be about 80% effective at stopping symptomatic COVID-19 cases after one dose, according to Scientific American, and antibody production is thought to be substantially higher after the second dose, meaning the booster is critical for longer-lasting protection.

Full inoculation with either vaccine provides around 95% protection from symptomatic cases and full immunity from severe cases, data from medical trials shows. Teachers are set to have both shots by spring break.

Announcing the special meeting this week gives time for “all the public comment in the world,” Scarlett said.

Gingery told the Jackson Hole Daily that board members check for written public comment right up until the start of meetings. Comments can be sent to schoolboard@tcsd.org. The board will also take public comment at the meeting. Since it will be held over Webex, interested parties can chime in virtually. Login information will be posted at TCSD.org beforehand.

It wasn’t clear Wednesday whether Scarlett’s ideas had support among fellow trustees because the discussion mostly touched on scheduling the special meeting. Throughout the school year, the board has received written comment both from parents who support the hybrid model and those pushing for a return to a regular schedule.

Based on those comments, Gingery said, he thinks there’s some appetite among parents for Scarlett’s proposals, though he wasn’t sure how much.

“I think this will make a lot of people happy that we’re having the discussion,” Gingery 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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