In the face of a pandemic not seen in generations, Teton County schools kept educating the valley’s children in no small part due to the dedication of its administrators, teachers and staff.

Wholeheartedly and with great enthusiasm, the Teton County School Board pays tribute to the amazing leadership shown by our Teton County School Superintendent, Gillian Chapman and tireless work of our staff.

Superintendent Chapman took on the challenge of keeping education services in place, whether in person or remotely, with determination and perseverance throughout the pandemic. Our community, our teachers, our families, and especially our students are indebted to her for all that she and her incredible staff did.

Our teachers and every other employee came together in a challenging moment to provide educational services.

One goal of our board is to provide a safe, healthy and caring learning environment, and we believe we were able to achieve this goal through the pandemic. Specifically, our students took on the challenge of learning from home, wearing masks all day at school, distancing from their fellow students — and all the other measures put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic — with grit and resilience. We are proud of them.

The pandemic is not over yet and we will be evaluating in the next month how best to proceed with the safety of our students and staff.

We are cognizant of learning loss over the last year. Our schools are working throughout the summer to be ready to hit the ground running in the fall to work to make up for learning loss that has occurred in some students. Our board is reviewing test data accumulated throughout the year and seeing what needs to be emphasized in the coming school year. It is our board’s mission to ensure that all students have the foundation for success and are challenged to reach their full potential, and it is our board’s commitment to be a premier district where every student is prepared to succeed in an ever-changing world.

Challenges to the school finance system continue, especially with the decrease in mineral revenue to the state of Wyoming. The board is working with the Wyoming Legislature to preserve the cost-of-living adjustment that Teton County receives. With the high cost of housing, it is imperative that Teton County School District continue to receive a cost-of-living adjustment.

You may see some building projects going on this summer around our schools. We were able to obtain funding from the state to build four new classrooms at Jackson Hole Middle School, along with a new secure entry vestibule, cafeteria expansion, a kitchen remodel and new flooring. We have had trouble obtaining steel because of pandemic supply line difficulties, so you will see some work this summer with the rest of the work completed next year.

We are also replacing the running track this summer because roots from nearby trees have gotten under the track and damaged it. Additionally, the Recreation District is replacing all three synthetic fields this summer. We also plan new fir trees around Colter Elementary and Jackson Hole High School to replace trees lost in the big storm last year.

Lastly, the school board evaluating our buildings. Since 2004 coal lease bonus funds from the state have paid for most capital facility needs of school districts. With the decrease in coal production in Wyoming and the absence of any new funding for schools coming from the state, many schools are reverting to the pre-2004 model of finding funds locally for capital facility needs.

School districts can issue bonds that are paid through property tax assessments. However, sales tax revenue is usually the preferred way to pay for capital facilities in Teton County through the Specific Purpose Excise Tax.

But before even discussing revenue sources, our board is working to prioritize our building needs and create a comprehensive strategy.

We are looking at the potential of building a sixth grade addition at the middle school, building a new career-tech building at the high school, new secure entry vestibules to some of our schools, a new fieldhouse and a bus barn.

And, of course, we are looking at building housing for our teachers and employees. We recognize that the ability to provide adequate numbers of qualified staff to operate our school district is becoming increasingly problematic as housing opportunities disappear. The school district is fortunate to own land that could potentially be used to build both rentals and employee-owned homes.

We strongly encourage input and participation by the community to help us evaluate our future building needs. Our overarching value is focused on best serving the needs of our students, and to this end, we strive to have a positively engaged and informed community.

Teton County School District No. 1 School Board is chaired by Keith Gingery. Vice Chairman William Scarlett, Secretary Betsy Carlin, Treasurer Janine Bay-Teske, Kate Mead, Alan Brumsted and Jennifer Zung round out the board. Guest Shots are solely the opinion of their authors.

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