School board tackles mask, other COVID-19 issues in special meeting

Tammy Keele

A spike in the number of COVID-19 cases and lack of county and state mandates prompted Big Horn County School District No. 4 board members to take action and update their COVID-19 plan during a special meeting last week. The impromptu gathering, called to order Sept. 7, was held on the heels of similar special meetings conducted by several school districts in Big Horn and Park counties.

Superintendent Dave Kerby advised the board that several surrounding schools had reported large numbers of absentee students, some in the triple digits. He went on to say the schools attributed the increased absenteeism to positive COVID-19 cases and students quarantined due to exposure.

Kerby addressed the board. “At this point with the lack of county or state mandates it comes to the school district to decide how we can best keep students safe and in school, and not to impede their learning. I think this is question one and question two: Will this board choose to mandate rules the county and state are not mandating? And what are we going to do to keep ourselves safe?”

During the meeting, board members were asked to consider several different options to amend and update the district’s Smart Start reopening plan, that includes COVID-19 protocols.

Among several other items, the board discussed policies regarding masks, mandatory temperature checks and parent notification of COVID positive classmates. The board quickly and unanimously voted in support of recommending students and staff wear masks, but drew the line short of a mask mandate. Although they did not support requiring face coverings, the board did agree mandatory temperature checks were warranted. After extended discussion, a favorable vote to mandate daily temperature checks for students and staff entering the building was passed. The mandated screening will not go into effect until the district utilizes COVID funds to purchase two face scan thermometers.

In another vote, the board decided against imposing mandatory temperature checks for spectators of sporting and other special events.

Lastly the policy concerning parent notification of a positive Covid case in the classroom was adopted as follow: The district will inform the parents of students who have been in a classroom where another student has tested positive for COVID. The nurse/administrator will directly notify parents if they believe their child has been directly exposed due to close proximity (within 6 feet for 15 minutes) of another child who tested positive for COVID. Parents will be informed of CDC guidelines and asked to closely monitor their child for symptoms.

The existing reopening plan, including COVID-19 protocols, is listed on the district website and per the superintendent will be updated as changes occur.