Cody Schools: No Closures Amidst Rising COVID Cases | Big Horn Radio Network | Wyoming

Cody Schools: No Closures Amidst Rising COVID Cases

Written by on October 26, 2020

The Park County School District #6 Board of Trustees sat in on a special session to hear the hard truth on how COVID-19 is affecting Cody’s schools, staff, and students.

Superintendent Peg Monteith addressed the board, along with the most recent statistics of the number of students and staff current affected by the virus at each of the district’s schools:

  • Eastside Elementary: 16 
    • 13 students (1 positive, 12 in quarantine) and 3 staff (1 positive, 2 in quarantine)
  • Livingston Elementary: 13
    • 10 students (2 positive, 8 in quarantine) and 3 staff (all potential)
  • Sunset Elementary: 16 
    • 13 students (1 positive, 12 in quarantine) and 3 staff (1 positive, 2 in quarantine)
  • Cody Middle School: 15 
    • 11 students (all quarantined) and 4 staff (2 positives, 2 in quarantine)
  • Cody High School/Heart Mountain Academy: 26 
    • All students (7 positive, 19 in quarantine)
  • 5 district staff: 4 Transportation, 1 in Food Services

In total, there were  73 students and 15 staff affected by the virus as of Monday, Oct. 26.

Monteith went on to explain the challenges facing the school’s efforts to contain the spread of COVID, particularly with contact tracing.

The main responsibility of contact tracing falls to Park County Public Health, but both they and Cody Regional Health are behind in their efforts as the demand for their services increases.

Hospitals in Park County are getting overwhelmed, as four to five positive COVID-19 cases are admitted every day and stay for no fixed amount of time. Monteith described it as a “revolving door” where patients are admitted and checked out, sometimes coming in for unrelated reasons and return soon after with COVID symptoms.

To counter this, Cody High School has begun its own contact tracing. Coaches and parents are gathering information when a positive case is confirmed and notifying school administrators.  Family self-reporting has been valuable in this effort.

An ominous question has loomed over the recent surge in cases: will Cody’s schools’ transition into Phase 2, with rolling two-week closures and virtual classes for everyone?

Monteith was adamant on that point – no.

Cody’s school leadership team, school nurses, Park County Public Health Officer Dr. Aaron Billin, and Cody Regional Health medical professionals were consulted on the matter of transitioning in Phase 2, as per the district’s reopening plan approved by the Wyoming Department of Health.

They all agreed it was in the best interests of the district and its students to remain open.

Multiple factors contributed to this decision. While there are dozens of students currently out of class due to the virus, the determining factor for transitioning into Phase 2 is the number of indisposed teachers.

That critical number that would make it difficult for classes to continue is five to six teachers per school.

Furthermore, Cody’s students are safer in school than out of it. Monteith explained that everyone in Cody’s schools has been doing “a wonderful job masking up” and take the mandate seriously. The community’s disregard for the state’s public health orders and CDC recommendations makes them more likely to get infected.

Closure increases exposure.

Community response – and responsibility – will continue being a major factor in determining the safety of Park County School District #6. But for the time being, there will be no further restrictions on classes, sports, or other activities. And no rolling closures.

“It is better for our students – physically and mentally – for our schools to stay open,” Monteith said.


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