Carbon County Schools Struggle to Determine Openings

Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter
Thursday, July 16, 2020

School administrators in Carbon County have been meeting about the possibility and the need for re-opening schools in the fall. Joliet Schools Superintendent, Allison Evertz said there are ongoing school board and school superintendents’ meetings. “So many want things to be normal again. It’s really tricky and we’re trying to meet needs.” On July 8, there was a meeting of all school superintendents and a consensus was reached, but things changed after medical professionals gave input. “Every time we get a general direction we get so much contradictory direction. We’re trying to navigate polarized information.” She recommends the public checking Carbon Alert at 10 a.m., July 23, on FB for updates. Evertz, Bridger Schools Superintendent Bill Phillips and a COVID-19 team member will be speaking.
Alex Ator, Superintendent of Roberts Schools said, “There is no consensus at this time (among county schools)” but, “at least in Roberts, we’re going to recommend wearing masks in school or face coverings.” Ator said, “There are a couple of models, one from U. of CA., San Francisco, that show that wearing a mask 4 out of 5 times (85 percent) has such similar effect as a lockdown.” He understands some people may have trouble accepting a school’s plans because “they’re not ready for that.”
Since Roberts is such a small school, students could separate six feet in a class. “Pods” of small groups of students are being considered so that if there is an outbreak, they can isolate that pod, as well as synchronize learning at home and allowing some students to opt out. First grade may stay together all day. Electives and teacher prep are still undetermined. Ator said that he will be reaching out to parents, putting out a survey and calling over the next few days. “We’re planning how to do it in person and how online. We’d prefer to do it in person, but we have to see what happens with cases and the death rate.”
“The reason plans are changing each month,” he said, “is that we are trying to best educate our students in a safe environment and best practices sometimes contradict each other.”
On Tuesday, July 14, the Bridger School Board met. Superintendent, Phillips said, “The Bridger Board of Trustees met in a regularly scheduled board meeting tonight and discussed the reopening of school.  There was consensus that school will reopen, but we are going to utilize a committee of staff members, board members, parents, and community members to engage in more discussion and planning.  By August the committee will recommend a plan for board approval.” Administrators met last Thursday with Sheila Boggio to hear her update and rules about quarantine.
Earlier, Krystal Zentner, Bridger School Board Trustee, noted that Bridger put out a parents’ survey recently, “to probe how they’re feeling, how comfortable they would feel with a couple of different ideas.” Some possibilities include delaying the beginning of the school year, creating a hybrid in class/online school year and making masks obligatory or non-obligatory. Zentner said, “The administrators are working as a group to come up with a plan county-wide.” Even if this guide is created “there will likely be some local tweaks, such as one school preferring masks and one school, not.”
Regarding the committee she said, “A committee composed of a few board members and a few parents has been created to assess what would work at Bridger Schools.” Zentner reflected, “We definitely want to open, it’s just how this is possible and even when.” She admitted that many in the community “have different takes…” and “We hope the committee will have ideas.”
Red Lodge Schools was contacted but did not respond by press time.