Special population variances granted to local schools

By JESSICA ROBINSON

Basin and Burlington schools were among several schools in Big Horn County that were granted a special population variance from both the state and county health officers on May 5. 

On April 28, Wyoming’s State Health Officer Dr. Alexa Harrist had issued continuations of three statewide public health orders which included the continued closures of educational institutions. However, these educational institutions could apply for variances to conduct administrative business, to provide limited instruction and to provide meals for those in need. 

Supt. Dave Kerby with Big Horn County School Dist. 4 said the plan is quite restrictive and involves taking temperatures, wearing masks, social distancing, groups of 10 or less and disinfecting.

According to the plan, no one suspected of being sick or symptomatic of COVID-19 will be allowed in the buildings. Also included in the plan are kitchen and transport staff using completely separate ingress and egress from students and staff. Students are also to wait in the car until invited by a staff member to enter where they will be screened. 

The Basin school board has not yet approved the plan, but it has been signed off on by the county and state health officers. With the current rules in place, Supt. Kerby said he will not recommend summer school in a physical setting.

The school board will consider opening for ESY on June 22. Kerby said if they open for ESY on June 22 (with small groups of students), it will be with the current rules unless the county rules have changed by that time. Those changes will have to be approved by the board.

In regards to reopening schools, Kerby said he would work with other Big Horn County school superintendents to use the same or similar reopening plans. This is to keep from having four different plans.

With the new variance, Burlington Schools Principal Matthew Davidson reported they have four students at the elementary school, seven in middle school and five in high school. 

Davidson said times are staggered and students are in different locations within the buildings to maintain the distancing guidelines. 

“It has been very positive for these students,” said Davidson. “Staff members have also been very excited to be able to better meet the needs of these students.”

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