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In the face of a pandemic that has not occurred in generations, Teton County’s schools continued to educate the valley’s children, thanks in no small part to the dedication of their administrators, teachers, and staff.

Wholeheartedly and with great enthusiasm, the Teton County School Board appreciates the amazing leadership of our Teton County School Superintendent Gillian Chapman and the tireless work of our staff.

Superintendent Chapman accepted the challenge of maintaining the educational services in person or remotely, with determination and perseverance during the pandemic. Our community, our teachers, our families, and most importantly, our students owe her thanks for all she and her incredible staff have done.

Our teachers and all other staff came together at a challenging moment to provide educational services.

A goal of our board of directors is to create a safe, healthy, and caring learning environment, and we believe we have been able to achieve that goal through the pandemic. Specifically, our students faced the challenge of learning from home, wearing masks at school all day, distancing themselves from their classmates – and all the other measures that were taken during the COVID-19 pandemic Courage and resilience. We are proud of them.

The pandemic is not over yet and we will be evaluating how best to deal with the safety of our students and staff over the next month.

We are aware of the loss of learning over the past year. Our schools work all summer to be ready in the fall to make up for the learning loss of some students. Our board of directors reviews the test data collected over the course of the year and sees what needs to be highlighted in the coming school year. It is the mission of our board of directors to ensure that all students have the foundation for success and are challenged to their full potential, and it is our board of directors’ obligation to be a top notch district where every student is ready to be in one ever changing world to be successful.

The challenges to the school financial system remain, particularly with the decline in mineral revenues for the state of Wyoming. The board is working with the Wyoming Legislature to maintain the cost of living adjustment that Teton County receives. Given the high cost of housing, it is imperative that the Teton County School District continue to receive a cost of living adjustment.

You might see some construction projects around our schools this summer. We have received state funding to build four new classrooms at Jackson Hole Middle School, along with a new secure entrance hall, cafeteria extension, kitchen remodel, and new flooring. We have struggled to source steel due to pandemic utility line difficulties so you will see some work this summer while the rest of the work will be completed next year.

We’re also changing the track this summer, as roots from surrounding trees got under the track and damaged it. In addition, the Recreation District is replacing all three artificial turf fields this summer. We are also planning new fir trees around Colter Elementary and Jackson Hole High School to replace trees that were lost in the big storm last year.

Finally, the school board assesses our buildings. Since 2004, the government coal lease bonus funds have met the school districts’ greatest investment needs. With Wyoming’s decline in coal mining and the lack of new government funding for schools, many schools are reverting to the pre-2004 model of finding local funding to meet capital investment needs.

School districts can issue bonds that are paid for through property tax bills. However, sales tax revenue is typically the preferred method to pay for investments in Teton County through earmarked excise tax.

But before we even talk about sources of income, our board is working to prioritize our building needs and come up with a comprehensive strategy.

We are exploring the potential of building a sixth grade in middle school, building a new professional technology building in high school, new secure entry lobbies for some of our schools, a new field house and a bus barn.

And of course we are looking to build apartments for our teachers and staff. We are aware that the provision of adequately qualified personnel for the operation of our school district is becoming increasingly problematic as housing options are no longer available. The school district is fortunate enough to have land that could potentially be used for rental and condominium construction.

We strongly encourage community involvement and involvement to assist us in assessing our future building needs. Our overarching value is focused on serving the needs of our students in the best possible way, and to that end we strive for a positively engaged and informed community.

The Teton County School District No. 1 is directed by Keith Gingery. Vice President William Scarlett, Secretary Betsy Carlin, Treasurer Janine Bay-Teske, Kate Mead, Alan Brumsted and Jennifer Zung complete the board. Guest recordings only reflect the opinion of their authors.