Questions on close contact protocol continue – The Torrington Telegram

TORRINGTON – The Goshen County School District (GCSD) Board plans to revisit the close contact protocol after community members addressed more concerns toward the policy during the regular meeting on Tuesday. 

Trustee Katherine Patrick was absent from the meeting and Trustee Justin Hurley was sworn into his position at the beginning of the meeting. 

Community members Danielle Murphy and Shanna Vargas addressed the board during information and proposals to ask the board questions about the current close contact protocol. 

As per district policy 9361, citizens may request to be put on the agenda prior to the meeting which allows the board to ask and answer questions as opposed to the time allotted in public forum. Speakers during information and proposals are also not set to a time limit as well. 

Murphy said public comment is the only time they get to talk to the board and wanted the opportunity to get responses from them. 

“Many of us are frustrated with our attempt to contact board members to ask questions or provide information,” Murphy said. “Spending five minutes speaking to you during public forum causes more frustration as we leave here feeling unheard and feeling as though our concerns are unimportant to the board. “

Murphy addressed recent incidents regarding her children as close contacts as they were required to wear masks during practices but were not during the school dances. Superintendent Ryan Kramer commented there should be no exceptions to the requirement including at dances. 

Murphy’s other concerns were around the qualifications of the school’s contact tracer. 

Murphy said the contact tracer did not immediately know the exposure date when calling about one of her children being a close contact. Murphy believed it was something which the contact tracer should have initially provided. 

Vargas followed up the claim with a question to the board of what training the contact tracers underwent for the position. 

“They went through with our school nurses who worked with Public Health in regards to their training and foundation of information just as they had this fall,” Kramer said. “They have been repeated with those same training mechanisms that were put through our school nurses and guidance.” 

Murphy added she had never received a call or notice from Public Health about her children being close contact and said many other families experienced the same thing. 

Murphy also referenced a comment from Chairman Zach Miller during the special meeting to rescind the mask mandate in which he said the mask mandate did not work if there was no countywide mandate as well. Murphy said the same should apply for the close contact protocol as well. 

Superintendent Kramer said the close contact protocol was created with the help of Wyoming Department of Health state health officer and epidemiologist who said the best plan of action would be a mask mandate, but the protocol was the next best alternative plan of action. 

When asked about ways to change the policy, Trustee Dylan Hager suggested to change it to a recommendation to the parents instead of requiring to choose one of the options. 

“I think it would be as simple as just keeping the close contact protocol if we need it. There are a lot of people that do find that helpful but having the close contact protocol communicated in a way that is a recommendation,” Hager said. “That’s what the state does to us.” 

Vice Chairman Michael Sussex gave background to the creation of the protocol and stated the intention was initially to avoid quarantining hundreds of kids. 

The board agreed the policy needed to be looked at again as Miller and Sussex highlighted the need to address changes when there are new recommendations from the CDC at the state and national level.  

The board will meet on Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. for a work session to further discuss the protocol. 

In other information, staff members from Lincoln Elementary presented the school’s crisis management plan. According to Principal Nyana Sims, they started to come up with a proactive plan after dealing with the pandemic in the previous school year. 

The school has five behavior structures in place which include “emotional temperature gauges” and a “What I Need” (WIN) room to give kids a space to regroup when going through a tough time. There are also structures where the students get to lead the activities as if they were the teacher and learn ways to encourage their classmates. 

During action items, the board approved the items in the consent agenda including the minutes of the board meeting on Jan. 11 and work session on Jan. 24, monthly bills, district monthly fiscal statement and fund balance comparison report, the renewal of SchoolForms annual license for the 2022-2023 online student registration system with Phoenix Learning Systems in the amount of $5,900.00, the purchase of custodial supplies for Southeast Schools, Trail, and TMS from Bluffs Facility Solutions in the total amount of $5,693.21, the purchase of annual PowerSchool student information system maintenance, support and cloud hosting from April 2, 2022 through April 1, 2023, in the total amount of $17,582.05 (general fund technology), a grant from the Wyoming Department of Homeland Security in the amount of $24,649.17 through Aug. 31, 2023, and a Memorandum of Understanding with Eastern Wyoming

College for concurrent and dual enrollment courses for the 2021-2022 school year as presented. However, the board tabled the item to Approve request per District Policy 5147 (Field Trips) to allow Southeast Elementary 6th grade students to travel to Yellowstone Park and Cody from May 24 through May 27, exceeding recommended mileage, travel times and overnight stay.

According to Kramer, there were questions as to the location of swimming spots and chaperoning which needed more time to be answered before it could be approved. Kramer added delaying the decision will not impact the date of the field trip. 

In new business, the board accepted the resignations of Patricia Bahmer, Lindy Ellis, Wendy Lewandowski, Sherry Kelly – Elementary Art, Gaylene Guth and Nyana Sims by a vote of 7-1. Trustee Carlos Saucedo was the lone no vote. 

The board also considered the resignation of Chris Mathis who taught at Torrington High School as the Trade and Technology Education teacher. 

Trustee Hurley asked what the difference was between accepting a resignation and firing the employee. Chairman Miller clarified any further discussion would require an executive session. 

The board accepted the resignation with a 7-1 vote as Hurley voted no. 

After accepting resignations, the board approved the hire of Holly Lara to the position of Director of Human Resources and Public Relations. 

The board also approved proposed revisions to District Policy 4112.2 (Professional Staff Contracts and Compensation Plans) as presented on introduction and first reading, proposed revisions to District Policy 4140 (Certified and Professional Staff Fringe Benefits) as presented on introduction and first reading, proposed revisions to district policy 3611.12 (Emergency Closings) as presented on introduction and first reading, contracting with J & J Floors for gym floor screening and refinishing, contracting with Home & Lawn Services LLC for 2022 district weed control, sterilant and fertilizer application, the purchase of district replacement video surveillance cameras, the purchase of instructional materials for the 18-21 Compass

Academy from Educational Associates for the 2022-2023 school year, contracting with the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education (IMSE) for additional staff development and contracting with Everybody Matters for ‘Skills of Success’ SEL Student training at Torrington Middle School. 

After action items the board moved to executive session to discuss personnel matters. 

The next regular meeting will be March 8 at 7 p.m.