Teaching and schooling from home

Jackson Middle School sixth-grade student Ellie Stubbs meets with her councilor Stephanie Sloan on an iPad from her bedroom this spring. The Teton County School District No.1 Board of Trustees approved the district's reopening plan Wednesday.

Students will head back to school in the fall. Or not. Or they may start the year with some combination of in-school classes and remote learning.

The Teton County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees unanimously approved a Smart Start reopening plan Wednesday that lays out three scenarios for the start of the 2020-21 school year this fall, but that doesn’t commit to any one of them.

The three scenarios, or tiers, are: open as usual; a hybrid version with some in-person classes and some online; and closed buildings with remote learning, like this past spring.

“What we’re asking you to approve is the plan that we’ll submit to the Wyoming Department of Education,” District Superintendent Gillian Chapman told the board.

She wrote in the Smart Start plan that the district would like to open school buildings Sept. 1, but that it is impossible to predict the state of the coronavirus pandemic six weeks from now.

If COVID-19 cases skyrocket, public health orders could close schools again. But the district is anticipating and planning for students to walk through school doors again soon.

As in previous discussions about reopening school buildings, some trustees raised safety concerns, citing uncertainty about the virus and how it spreads. The triggers for determining when the district would go to hybrid learning or school closures were of particular interest.

Chapman told trustees that the district and the board could enact school closures on an emergency basis. The decision to switch to hybrid education lies with school district and health officials, but the trustees were generally amenable to stipulations that would determine that move.

“I appreciate in the Tier 2 that the elementary kids would be the last to go into an adaptive learning plan,” board Chairwoman Betsy Carlin said. “I think that’s really important because certainly the kindergarten [and] grade one and two students will require a little bit more in-person learning, and I think that they need to be prioritized as we go forward.”

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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