Schools close until April 6
District offers free meals to children
March 18, 2020
Schools in Green River have closed and classes hosted at both Western Wyoming Community College and the University of Wyoming have been suspended in response to the efforts combating the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.
The Sweetwater County School District No. 2 Board of Trustees met in an emergency meeting Sunday evening to vote on if it would close the district. The board unanimously to close schools starting Monday. The closure will remain in effect through April 3 and are based on a recommendation by Gov. Mark Gordon and Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow. Christy Pelham, executive director of the Sweetwater County Child Developmental Center, said the organization will follow the same closure schedule enacted by SWCSD #2.
“This is kind of an unprecedented thing,” Steve Core, chairman of the board, said at the start of the meeting. He said during the 20 years he has been on the board, he’s never had to be involved in an emergency meeting.
According to Tony Beardsley, activities are also suspended through April 3. This includes practices for spring sports.
In a letter to the community, Interim Superintendent Jamie Christensen said classes will resume April 6 if a recommendation is made to allow schools to reopen.
“This would mean that the three weeks of the closure would be considered the spring break,” Christensen wrote.
If the school district is able to reopen April 6, the number of missed days available to the district is reduced from 15 to 10. He wrote the Wyoming Department of Education will determine if schools will need to extend their schedule into June.
District offers free meals
The district’s nutrition services department will provide free breakfasts and lunches for children and teens, aged two to 19, throughout the closure. The program operates similar to the summer food program and distributes food at Monroe, Truman and Washington schools. The Granger and McKinnon schools distributes meals from 10-11 a.m.
In an effort to reduce the possibility of spreading disease, food will be distributed at set times to groups of children. Children with last names ranging between A through I can pick up meals at 8 a.m., J through R distribution starts at 8:45 a.m., and S through Z can pick up their meals at 9:30 a.m. Anyone unable to pick up meals at those times can receive meals until 12:30 p.m. daily. All children in Green River can receive these meals. Adults can purchase the meals as well, and will be charged $2.75 for breakfast and $4 for lunch.
Speaking at the emergency meeting, Leah Kenison said the food program is important to Green River because it provides food to children who otherwise would go hungry. She said one in six children in Wyoming don’t have secure access to food and said 2,300 children in the county need food assistance. During the summer food program last year, the district distributed more than 18,000 meals over the course of two-and-a-half months.
Other public services impacted
Aside from schools throughout Green River, Golden Hour Senior Center and the Sweetwater County Library System have also announced they would close until further notice. Jackie Grubb, executive director of GHSC said their closures started Monday. She said the home delivery meal program will continue to function and GRHS is offering a drive-through meal service to people who normally eat at the center.
“We’re dealing with the most vulnerable population -- senior citizens,” Grubb said.
In a release issued Monday evening, the library system announced it and the Community Fine Arts Center in Rock Springs would close as well. Added to that list of county agencies is the Sweetwater County Events Complex, which released a statement Tuesday afternoon.
The Green River Recreation Center has also announced a closure, suspending leisure programs, sports, swim lessons and other activities until further notice.
“The Sweetwater Events Complex is taking precautionary measures and will be closed to the public March 18 through March 21,” the release states. “During that time staff will be cleaning the buildings to ensure public safety. Additionally, all public events have been cancelled through the end of March.”
WWCC and UW
At Western Wyoming Community College, classes through March 29 were cancelled and both Green River and Rock Springs campuses were closed. Online classes were not impacted by the decision. All events scheduled through March 30 are also cancelled.
Starting March 30, all in-person classes will be delivered online and students are asked to remain off campus. Students living on campus starting March 30 to retrieve possessions from their rooms. Meal plans and housing will be refunded at a prorated rate. Students who are unable to make alternate living arrangements can live on campus through an exemption from the college’s housing department.
UW is proceeding similarly to WWCC, allowing all in-person undergraduate and graduate-level classes to be delivered online after March 30.
“This response plan seeks to allow the university to best address the larger public health needs of the university community, Albany County and the state of Wyoming,” Acting President Neil Theobald said in a press release. “We are invested in keeping our campus community members as healthy as possible.”
At this point, UW’s spring commencement ceremonies are scheduled to take place as scheduled in May.