Wyoming news briefs for September 23


Sheridan school district meeting paused as residents again voice concerns over masks

SHERIDAN – The Sheridan County School District 1 Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday at Big Horn High School had an unexpected recess, as the meeting was paused to allow tensions over the district’s temporary mask requirement to cool down. 

Shortly after the start of the meeting, five residents took turns voicing their concern over the district’s COVID-19 policy requiring masks to be worn while indoors at any SCSD1 building by students, staff and visitors. 

Dani Harnish, whose children attend Big Horn schools and recently set up a Facebook page in opposition to the mask requirement, said she and others would pursue a petition to call for the voluntary resignation of the board members, with the exception of the one trustee who voted against the mask requirement when the board approved the policy change at a special meeting. 

At that point, SCSD1 Chair Carol Garber ended the public comment period and requested a 15-minute recess. 

The meeting continued without further interruption after the break.

“I chose to not take more public comment, because the public had their time to speak, I wanted to clarify the reasons for the board’s mask mandate decision,” she said. “I called recess to gain order of the meeting.” 

Like SCSD1, Sheridan County School District 2 approved a similar, temporary mask requirement at the start of the 2021-22 school year based on the recommendations of local health officials. Officials for both districts also stated they would meet and review updated data as to local COVID-19 cases to see whether the requirements would need to continue.

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Powell Middle School recognized with national award

POWELL — Powell Middle School has been named a National Blue Ribbon School, considered the highest honor an American school can achieve. 

“Powell Middle School is one of only five middle schools in the nation to be recognized in the category of Exemplary High Performing, which is an astounding accomplishment,” said Jay Curtis, superintendent of Park County School District 1. 

The recognition is based on the school’s overall academic performance. 

The U.S. Department of Education officially announced the Blue Ribbon award on Tuesday. 

The honor is “the pinnacle of all recognitions or awards a school can receive,” said Kyle Rohrer, principal of Powell Middle School. He noted that while several schools receive “exemplary” ratings from the state following assessments, only two in the entire state received a National Blue Ribbon award in 2021: Powell Middle School and Tongue River Elementary School in Ranchester. 

They are among only 325 schools in the nation to receive the recognition this year. 

Although the past 18 months amid the COVID pandemic have been difficult, Rohrer said those at Powell Middle School “wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.” 

“We are resilient and we do our best to take care of each other,” he said, adding, “We realize there are many things happening around us that present challenges, but we are committed to focusing on what we can control.” 

Now in its 39th year, the National Blue Ribbon Schools award affirms “the hard work of educators, families and communities in creating safe and welcoming schools where students master challenging and engaging content,” the Department of Education said.

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Deer disease outbreak identified in Crook County

SUNDANCE — An outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) in white-tailed deer and pronghorn has seen cases identified across the east of Wyoming, including in Crook County. 

The Wyoming Game & Fish Department last week announced that it was actively tracking the outbreak of EHD, which is confirmed in the Arvada area as well as near Douglas, Laramie and Cheyenne. 

The disease was confirmed in Crook County near Moorcroft on September 6. 

EHD is not unusual in Wyoming; in fact, wildlife managers say they see it in big game every year. 

However, 2021 could be one of those years when the disease has a bigger impact. 

“This year seems worse, but we are just at the beginning of the outbreak,” said Hank Edwards, Wildlife Health Laboratory supervisor, in a press release. “Monitoring will be important to chart the impacts.” 

EHD is often seen during drought and hot weather, especially if wildlife congregate around small water holes containing the midge that carries the disease. Transmission occurs when a host animal with the virus is bitten by a midge. The disease is not always fatal. 

The number of cases is expected to grow – although not in a uniform manner across the state – until the first hard frost, which will kill off the midge populations.

Game & Fish reassures hunters that they should not be concerned about contracting EHD or passing it to their pets. 

However, if the disease spreads to the point where it could have a substantial impact on wildlife, this may curtail hunting seasons. 

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Population decline to impact Greybull financially

GREYBULL— The town of Greybull stands to lose a good portion of its state funding as a result of the population loss that was discovered in the 2020 United States census.

A deeper dive into the U.S. Census Bureau data released last month shows five of the county's eight municipalities losing population between 2010 and 2020.

Greybull was among those that lost the most, falling 10.6 percent to 1,651 from a 2010 figure of 1,847. No community in the county lost more people in the eyes of the U.S. Census Bureau — although Manderson, at 22.8 percent, and Deaver, at 13.5 percent, experienced greater percentage losses.

Paul Thur, until recently the town administrator/finance director, said it's too soon to tell how much money the town will lose in direct distribution from the state. Last fiscal year, it received $277,178.76.

Direct distribution, he explained, is essentially a town's "allowance" from the state. It's based in part on population counts. It's not the only funding the town receives from the state — revenue is also generated by sales and cigarette taxes, for instance — but it's still a nice sized chunk of it, according to Thur.

The other Big Horn County municipalities that lost population between 2010 and 2020 were Lovell, down 117 or 5 percent from 2,360 to 2,243, and Byron, down 31 or 5.2 percent from 593 to 562.

Cowley led the population gainers in the last decade, growing by 107 people, 16.3 percent, from 655 to 762. Burlington grew by 26 people, 9 percent, from 288 to 314. Basin grew by 3 people, 0.2 percent, from 1,285 to 1,288.

Wyoming grew by just 2.3 percent from 563,626 to 576,851. 

The nine counties showing growth were Albany, Campbell, Crook, Laramie, Lincoln, Natrona, Park, Sheridan and Teton.

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