Balow: Individual School Districts Will Decide Whether Or Not To Open Schools This Fall

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The decision on whether schools across Wyoming will open this fall will be left up to local school districts, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said Wednesday.

Balow, speaking during a news conference with Gov. Mark Gordon, said the Department of Education has prepared a “guidance document” to help local school districts decide whether to open their doors for the fall semester.

The “Smart Start” document will provide districts with the information they need as they decide to open schools completely, provide a mix of in-school and remote education or leave schools closed and continue online education, Balow said.

“The bulk of the decision-making is in the hands of your communities,” she said. “Health officials, school boards, educators, parents and even students will make important decisions in the coming weeks.”

The document lays out benchmarks to be met and procedures to be followed for each of the options. For instance, before a school can be opened, plans will have to be developed for managing student arrival at the building, parents will need to screen their children daily for coronavirus symptoms and both students and staff will be asked to stay home if they feel ill.

Schools opening will also be advised to seat students in such a way as to limit close contact and encourage hand washing by anyone entering a school building.

Balow said the state’s school districts learned a great deal about educating students online during the pandemic and the department plans to use those lessons in determining how best to teach students going forward.

“My goal is to make sure students continue to have access to the same high quality education experience they always have in Wyoming and to empower communities to make the very best decisions,” she said.

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