Wyoming news briefs for January 13

Jackson schools require mask use until Jan. 26

JACKSON — Teton County School District No. 1 unanimously voted Wednesday evening to require face masks for the next two weeks, following a verbal recommendation by Teton District Health Officer Dr. Travis Riddell.

The school board's decision seemed to be based primarily on the high number of students missing school for COVID-19 quarantines and isolation. Since re-opening Jan. 3 without a mask mandate, up to 20 percent of students have been absent, with more than 200 students out for COVID-related reasons last Thursday. Pediatric cases have increased by more than 300 percent, according to Teton County Health Department data.

At the meeting, Riddell acknowledged the omicron variant poses less risk of severe illness, but he also told the board masks will slow the spread of transmission between students, which should keep them in classrooms.

"Now is the time for us to be using every tool at our disposal," he said.

Trustee Bill Scarlett pushed back against Riddell's recommendation, questioning why schools should be singled out when most valley residents are still gathering unmasked in places like bars and on Jackson Hole Mountain Resort's aerial tram.

But ultimately, he joined other board members in supporting a temporary mandate while cases surge in the community.

Chairman Keith Gingery said reconvening for a special meeting on Jan. 26 should allow schools a chance to "see how we're doing" with the new surge.


Hearing in second-degree murder case scheduled

NEWCASTLE — The pretrial hearing for Paul Manders, of Osage, has been rescheduled for Feb. 24 at 9 a.m. at the Weston County Courthouse. A continuance of the pretrial had been granted on Dec. 30.  On Sept. 30, the 52-year-old Manders pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the July shooting death of Vernon Clyde. 

A pretrial hearing, according to legalmatch.com, is a meeting between the parties involved in a legal dispute. The purpose of said meeting is to “resolve any simple issues before the court case actually begins in order to allow the trial itself to proceed more effectively.” 

According to court documents, Manders had called 911 to say that he had shot Clyde, in what was reported to be the conclusion of an ongoing property dispute between the two men. 

Wyoming statutes state that murder in the second degree is committed when a person “purposely and maliciously, but without premeditation, kills any human being.” 

At this time, Manders is still being held at the Weston County Detention Center on a $150,000 bond. 

If convicted, Manders faces no less than 20 years in prison, with a maximum sentence of life in prison. A fine of no more than $10,000 may also be added to the sentence.


Gillette schools relax COVID quarantine rules

GILLETTE — If students and employees are exposed to COVID-19, they now have the option of returning to school the next day.

Over Christmas break, some guidelines changed regarding isolation and quarantine at schools that had been issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Infection. Kirby Eisenhauer, deputy superintendent of the school district, said officials have been working with Wyoming Department of Health to set those guidelines in motion.

When a student is in isolation it is because they have tested positively for the virus and are either showing symptoms or are asymptomatic. If they are in quarantine, it is because they have been exposed to the virus.

If students or employees test positively, they will now only need to stay at home for five days, rather than the 10-day period CDC previously enforced.

For those showing symptoms, five days starts from the first day of symptoms, and for those who are asymptomatic, the five days starts after they receive the positive test.

“The opportunity for transmission after that period of time decreases significantly,” said Eisenhauer, which is why the CDC has moved to shorten the period at home.

No quarantine would be required if a student is around someone who tested positively for the virus but they were both wearing masks, or if they are fully vaccinated, or have had COVID-19 in the last 30 days.


Most community college bachelor’s students enrolled at Central

RIVERTON — Central Wyoming College students make up almost half of the enrollments in the new four-year degree programs now offered at community colleges in Wyoming. 

In December, 81 students were enrolled in four-year Bachelor of Applied Science programs at CWC, including 45 studying organizational management and leadership and 36 studying early childhood education. 

Only three other colleges in the state offer BAS degrees: Western Wyoming Community College, with 34 students enrolled; Laramie County Community College, with 35 students enrolled; and Northwest College, with 26 students enrolled. 

“Enrollment is robust and healthy,” Wyoming Community College Commission executive director Sandy Caldwell told the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee last month.

Caldwell later referred to a report showing that BAS degrees represent a “net add” to the state’s post-secondary enrollment totals, meaning the four-year degrees do not “pull away from the university.” 

Instead, Caldwell said, the BAS program “is adding people into the bachelor’s level who would not have gone (otherwise).”