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Powell’s Northwest College Prepares For Return of Students

in Coronavirus/Education/News

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By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

At Northwest College in Powell, staff are preparing offices, classrooms and dorm rooms for the return of students on Aug. 19, even though officials are not sure how many students will show up for the fall semester.

West Hernandez, Enrollment Services Director at Northwest, said numbers for the fall semester are changing from week to week.

“It’s challenging to get an accurate picture,” he said. “You know, we have a good population of international students here at Northwest, and we don’t know what that’s gonna look like. And we have students who are just, and rightfully so, apprehensive about a large group of people coming to campus. So there is some talk about students nationally taking a gap year.”

Hernandez said he certainly understands why students are wary.

“We don’t know what this fall’s going to look like in many ways,” he said. “So you’re giving students information at this current time, with them hoping to make a decision, and sometimes you can’t give them everything.”

Hernandez said the college is still working out the details of what campus life will be like this fall — looking at a combination of online classes with in-person classes that would be held only with the appropriate safety measures in place.

“Students will have the opportunity to go to class in person at times, but also join us via Zoom for that live interaction,” he said.

Campus officials are making sure that Northwest College students are as safe as possible when school does start again this fall — that includes making mask-wearing mandatory for students and staff.

“We’re asking students and staff to wear masks while on campus, especially in those close quarter areas,” he noted. “You know, if you’re within 6 feet of somebody, it is going to be a requirement.”

Hernandez said the college’s staff is being diligent about cleaning facilities, but added students will need to do their part.

“We’re going to need the students’ help in following orders, monitoring how they’re feeling every day, and all those pieces. It’s definitely going to be a different fall semester than normal.”

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Central Wyoming College Unveils Reopening Plan For Fall

in Coronavirus/Education/News

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Central Wyoming College, which has four campuses across the state, will transition from virtual learning back to in-person instruction for the fall term, officials have announced.

CWC has released its general guidelines for college operations in Lander, Dubois, Jackson and Riverton. Classes are slated to begin Aug. 24.

While the school year will begin with in-person instruction, all courses will shift to remote learning for the week between the end of the Thanksgiving break and the end of the fall term on Dec. 4, the college’s plan said. The plan is similar to the one in place for the University of Wyoming’s reopening.

The plan also said the college expects a chance that the campuses will see students, visitors or employees who have been exposed to or contracted the virus. Enhanced cleaning protocols and social distancing guidelines will be implemented for the fall semester, the plan said and it warned that short-term “rolling closures” might be implemented if virus activity picks up.

Signs will be placed throughout the four campuses letting students, employees and visitors know they should stay home if they’re experiencing any coronavirus-like symptoms, urging them to practice social distancing and to wear a mask when in common areas.

All employees and students will have to submit to a health screening when using any CWC facility. Seating and equipment in the college facilities, including its classrooms, will be removed, moved or clearly labeled to maintain 6 feet between individuals.

No gatherings larger than 50 people will be allowed indoors. Phone and email interactions will be encouraged, and when in-person meetings occur, they will be scheduled using the Google Calendar function to assist with contact tracing, if necessary.

No self-service food options, such as buffets or salad bars, will be available at any of the campus facilities.

If federal coronavirus relief funds are available to campuses, some of the money will be used to pay for or partially reimburse students for internet service subscriptions or mobile hotspots for students who are remote learning from home, the plan said.

Non-athlete student residents on campus will be assigned one person per dorm room and no guests will be allowed except in designated areas. Five rooms, with private bathrooms, will be reserved in the event a student needs to be quarantined or isolated.

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Powell’s Northwest College President Says “Everything” Is Up For Review

in Education/News

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

All programs at Northwest College in Powell will be up for review as the college tries to cut spending in the face of declining revenue, its president said Friday.

Stephanie Hicswa responded in a prepared statement to an announcement that Sheridan College and Gillette College would eliminate their athletic programs, except for rodeo, to reduce spending by $2.8 million.

Hicswa said she was sure the decision was not an easy one.

“The recent decision … was no doubt difficult and painful for all involved,” she said. “Our hearts go out to those employees and athletes, and indeed those communities who love their Generals and Pronghorns as much as we love our Trappers.”

Hicswa noted the state is facing a $1.5 billion drop in revenues over the next two years and that community colleges have been asked, along with every other state entity, to look at ways to cut spending.

She did not rule out cuts to the college’s athletic program, but said every area of the college will have to be reviewed for possible cuts.

“Know that we will be carefully analyzing and thoughtfully discussing which cuts will make the most sense for us and we will be communicating those decisions as transparently as possible,” she said.

Hicswa said the college plans to ask its trustees, who meet July 6, to let it use some of its carryover funds from this fiscal year to maintain programs at current levels for the next year.

“This will give us the time we need to be thoughtful and strategic in our budget cuts next year,” she said.

Without new revenue sources, however, the college will have to reduce its services, she added.

“We ask the communities we serve to begin embracing the idea that without new revenue streams, NWC will simply not continue to be funded at the same level as in the past,” she said. “Difficult budget decisions are on the horizon and we ask for your patience and compassion as we work through these difficult decisions together.”

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Gillette, Sheridan Colleges Will Save $2.8 Million By Scrapping Athletic Programs

in Education/News

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The elimination of most athletic programs at colleges in Sheridan and Gillette will save those colleges $2.8 million, according to officials.

Officials with the Northern Wyoming Community College District, which encompasses both Sheridan College and Gillette College, said in a news release the cuts were part of a needed $3.96 million reduction in spending.

All eight of Wyoming’s community colleges are looking at spending cuts as they prepare their budgets for the coming year. However, one college, Casper College, specifically rejected the idea of cutting athletic programs.

Northern Wyoming Community College District trustees declared a financial emergency on June 18 due to the impacts from the coronavirus pandemic as well as imminent cuts to ongoing funding from the state.

The colleges have discontinued their men’s and women’s basketball, soccer and volleyball programs to save $2.8 million. The rodeo teams from both schools will continue, although with significantly reduced budgets.

“This decision was far from easy and definitely not something we wanted to take away from our student-athletes. However, we simply cannot maintain a vision that includes full-time coaches, full-ride athletic scholarships coming from our general fund, and expensive recruitment and travel,” said Walter Tribley, the district’s president.

Tribley said in the release that the long-term goal is to eventually bring back additional athletic opportunities at the Division III level of the National Junior College Athletics Association. The teams for both colleges had been competing in Division I of the NJCAA.

In addition to athletics, cuts were made to the district’s administration, two academic programs and the campus police departments.

The programs, culinary arts and hospitality management, will be discontinued and the district won’t fill several open administrative and staff positions and will implement reorganizations that will equal the savings of seven full-time positions. These cuts to the programs and administration total $500,000.

Sixteen positions were also eliminated.

The campus police departments will transition to a more “traditional format,” resulting in a $260,000 cut. Travel will be limited to essential trips only, which will result in $400,000 in savings.

“The changes we will be making as a district that yield the greatest ongoing savings were selected not because they were failing in any way,” Tribley said. “They were selected because the annual cost of the programs versus the annual revenue generated by those programs make them unsustainable during this time of financial crisis.”

All scholarships will be honored and students enrolled in discontinued academic programs will have the chance to complete their degree requirements. All athletes will be released from their commitments to the community college district.

“Our number one priority is our students. While these decisions will impact some students directly, it is the best way forward for our District to minimize negative impacts to the majority of our students,” said Tribley. “We look forward to continuing to provide an affordable, transferable high-quality education for all.”

Casper College officials, contacted by Cowboy State Daily, said they had no plans to take such action.

“Casper College remains committed to continuing our strong tradition of collegiate sports and is looking forward to bringing back our student athletes in volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball and rodeo,” Chris Lorenzen, the college’s director of public relations, said in a statement. “In addition, we are very excited to kick off our inaugural season of men’s and women’s soccer.”

Lorenzen said the college continually monitors the cost of its athletic programs to make sure they can continue uninterrupted.

“Finally, we are aware of the financial costs of athletic programs and continually monitor expenses to ensure the financial benefits of enrolling student athletes as well as the student life and student experience benefits of our athletic programs remain sustainable,” his statement said.

Phone calls to the Northern Wyoming Community College Commission were not immediately returned.

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Wyoming Schools Receive $32.5M in Federal Funds

in Coronavirus/Education/News
Jillian Balow Education School Safety Senate File 64

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s schools will receive more than $32.5 million in coronavirus relief from the federal government, Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow has announced.

Balow announced last week that the funds are Wyoming’s share of $13.2 billion allocated to elementary and secondary schools across the country as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

The money will give Wyoming school districts emergency funds to address the impacts of the coronavirus on schools across the state. 

“We are grateful for these timely funds,” Balow said in a news release. “Wyoming education should not go ‘back to normal.’ School districts and schools will utilize the … funds to make schools more nimble and safer in the face of a resurgence or future pandemic.”

School buildings across the state remain closed as students continue to take lessons from home. Several school districts have already decided not to open their buildings back up during this school year.

The federal money should be used to make up for any educational shortfalls that may have occurred while students spent the last several months of school at home, Balow said.

“We should spend these dollars to fill education gaps created by COVID-19 school closures and strengthen our education system,” she said.

Balow: April 6 Is Deadline for Continuing Wyoming Education Plan

in Coronavirus/Education/News
Jillian Balow Education School Safety Senate File 64

Wyoming’s schools will have until April 6 to develop a plan for the continued education of their students in the face of a new state order extending the closure of schools for two weeks, according to Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow.

Balow, in a news release Friday, said each school district must have its “Adapted Learning Plan” approved by the state Department of Education by April 6 to continue receiving state funds.

Gov. Mark Gordon and Dr. Alexia Harrist, the state’s health officer, on Friday announced the state would extend until April 17 the orders closing the state’s schools. The orders had originally been set to end on April 3.

The state’s school districts have been working on plans to offer remote education to students online since the school closures began in mid-March. Balow praised the efforts by the districts to provide for their students.

“School doors may be closed to students, but Wyoming education is open for business,” Balow said. “The desire by teachers to connect with their students and provide learning opportunities has been inspiring. Teaching and learning while practicing social distancing is a new concept for many. Teachers, parents, and students all need support in order for it to be successful.” 

Cheyenne Schools Create Contingency Plans In Case Closures Extend Beyond April 3

in Coronavirus/Education/News

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Cheyenne schools are preparing a contingency plan in case the coronavirus pandemic causes schools to be closed beyond April 3.

“While this remote learning plan could proceed through the end of the year, we will consider it a bonus if we can get our students back in schools sooner,” Boyd Brown, superintendent of Laramie County School District No. 1 said in a news release on the district’s Facebook page. “Know that the district’s administration, teachers and staff members miss having contact with our students.”

This week, teachers will reach to families using the Remind app. Students will be invited to refresh their learning, beginning with lessons they were working on prior to the school closures.

Pre-kindergarten through sixth grade students will focus on English/Language Arts and math. Teachers will weave other disciplines into lessons when possible.

Prioritized standards will be streamlined for students in seventh through 12 grades. Electives will be taught in a “creative” manner.

If the closure remains in effect, students will begin remote learning April 6. At that time, new material will be taught.

Remote learning will occcur in a variety communication methods. This will include learning packets, online instruction, phone calls, mailings and more. Paper copy packets will be provided to families without access to certain technology. District officials are working with administrators at the Transportation Department to develop a method of delivering and receiving the work from students and parents.

Beginning April 6, students will be engaged in lessons for each scheduled class. All lessons will include a learning target, an instructional component, student practice and a demonstration of learning. Resource teachers and case managers will ensure IEP students receive all assigned work and will work with parents for accommodations.

“Without a doubt, this is a very challenging experience for all,” Brown said. “Together, we can work to keep our community safe while allowing our students to progress academically. We are going to get through this together.”

The Salary Of Every Educator In Wyoming Is Now Available Online

in Education/News

The salaries of every educator in Wyoming are now available online.

Adam Andrzejewski, founder of, announced the news on Friday.

Andrzejewski said the process to get the salaries posted was a three-year effort which included the efforts of Wyoming State Senator Tom James who filed a public records request last year.

The takeaway?

There are more than 16,000 full-time employees in Wyoming and the costs – including benefits – are estimated to total more than $1 billion.

Who is getting paid what in your district?  The Open the Books website has a search tool that will allow users five free trials before requiring users to register.

Some highlights from the report:

“Highest paying districts: The districts paying the most six-figure compensation packages include Laramie #1 (60), Natrona #1 (44), Campbell #1 based in Gillette (37), Teton #1 (21), and Sweetwater #2 based in Green River (13). In Fremont #25, although their superintendent earns a generous salary, only seven other employees made six-figures.”

“Top paid: Terry Snyder, Superintendent of Fremont #25 (Riverton), ranked as the highest paid educator after his disclosed compensation increased last year from $157,218 to $216,304. Rounding out the top five most highly paid: Steven Hopkins, Superintendent of Natrona #1 in Casper ($208,291); Craig Dougherty, Superintendent of Sheridan #2 ($207,600); Gillian Chapman, Superintendent of Teton #1 in Jackson ($203,898); and Boyd Brown, Superintendent of Laramie #1 in Cheyenne ($196,000).”

Here’s the full story

Cheyenne Students Ask Josh Allen to Come Back for Read Across America Week

in Education/News

Students at Prairie Wind Elementary School in Cheyenne are asking Buffalo Bills quarterback — and former University of Wyoming standout — Josh Allen to return to the Cowboy State in March.

The students asked Allen via video to join them for Read Across America Week which begins on March 2.

“If you are able to come, you will have a chance to meet your number one fans and the coolest kids around,” said one student in the video. 

Another student, donning a Buffalo Bills hat, asked the gymnasium full of students who they all loved. 

“Josh Allen!” the students yelled followed by an eruption of screams and cheers.

 Principal Lisa Weigel told Buffalo TV station WKBW that the students chose Allen because he’s a great role model.

“Our kids really know how to work hard, they have an all in attitude and it’s something [Josh Allen] approaches in everything he does so we couldn’t think of a better role model,” Weigel said. “Come back to where everything started for you, come back and share with students the incredible things you’ve accomplished due to your hard work.” 

Northwest College Adds Video Gaming (eSports) as Competitive Sport

in Education/News

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

When thinking of competitive college activities, sports usually comes to mind.

But Northwest College is looking to increase its enrollment by offering a new sanctioned competitive program — video gaming.

According to a report by Goldman Sachs, Esports — or competitive video gaming — is more popular now than major league baseball. Entire stadiums are being constructed to lure fans and gamers to the booming billion-dollar industry.

Brian Erickson,  athletic director for Northwest College, said the college is banking on the popularity of Esports to boost enrollment numbers. 

“What do college kids do these days? They’re not throwing a frisbee, they’re not throwing the football anymore,” he said. “What are they doing on their time off? Well, they’re in their room and they’re gaming. So let’s get them out of their rooms, let’s get them in this facility gaming with each other, to give them a different interaction.”

Erickson said he was able to apply for a grant through Northwest’s college foundation to begin funding the activity, which he said won’t be very expensive compared to other sports.

“It will really only cost about $10,000 a year to run the whole thing,” he said, “and we’re already out there trying to get sponsors.”

He said Northwest is the first Wyoming school to offer e-sports as a sanctioned activity.

Once established, NWC players will be competing in Powell against teams from all over the country. For example, if they play against a team from Florida, NWC competitors would be playing from Powell and Florida players would be playing from their campus.

Erickson said a group formed for college e-gaming, the National Association of Collegiate Esports, has 178 teams as members, with competitors playing 15 different games.

When NWC’s program is up and running, its students will play regional and national teams. 

“League of Legends, Rocket League, Fortnite are the ones we’ll probably start with,” Erickson said.

Erickson said the program is just getting off the ground, starting with a “club” for the existing players this spring. The college will then recruit for a full Esports program for the fall semester. 

“We’ve got to do a really good job of marketing, that Northwest College has an Esports team,” he said. 

Erickson explained that the NACE has recruiting websites where potential students can log in and upload their profiles. He said there could be international students interested in attending Northwest College to game.

Before they begin, though, there are logistics to be tackled.

“We’re moving forward with the facility right now,” he said, spreading his arms inside a large empty room in one of the classroom buildings on the NWC campus. “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got the Internet connection that can run these games, then get the computers.”

Erickson said the school is looking to recruit 30 to 40 new students going into next year. If the recruiting drive is successful, he said it would halt the downward trend in enrollment the college has seen over the last few years. 

He added NWC hopes to have scholarship money available for potential students in the next three or four years. 

“One of our missions for the college is to retain and recruit,” he said. “We’re trying to keep our students here, and get our enrollment numbers back up.”

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