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Lovell Chronicle
Lovell , Wyoming
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January 7, 2021     Lovell Chronicle
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January 7, 2021
 

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{North Big Horn HOSpial redy t ccin ridens and BY RYAN FITZMAURICE North Big Horn Hospital ‘stands ready to administer vacci— nations to staff and residents as the statewide rollout of vaccina- tions is underway. According to North Big Horn Hospital Marketing Coordina- tor Janet Koritnik, 10 Moderna vaccines were given to staff last week for a trial run. Koritnik said the trial went very well. “We just had very minor side effects such as arm soreness re— ported,” Koritnik said. The next step will be a facility wide vaccination effort for New Horizons Care Center residents and North Big Horn Hospital Dis— trict staff, also with the Moder— na vaccine. Those vaccines will be administered on January 6, 7, 8 and 13. The district is currently pre— paring a community wide vacci— nation plan, Koritnik said. SEE ‘VACCINE AT NBHH’ page 6 COURTESY PHOTO Janel Thatch (left) vaccinates Emily Nebel as Dr. Troy Caldwell gets vaccinated by Kristi Schneider. Nebel, the infection prevention nurse for North Big Horn Hospital, and Caldwell, who serves as a physician, were both vaccinated on Dec. 30 as art of a 10—employee trial conducted by North Big Horn Hospital. The hospital will begin vaccinating employees and residents facility Wide this week. Proposed cut would reduce staff in Big Horn County School District No. 1 TOP 10 STORIES OF As we turn our calendars to 2021, we look back at per— haps the most challenging and stressful year most of us have experienced, a year with both inspiring highs and tough-to- take lows. Here’s a look at our top 10 stories of 2020: Big Horn County was not spared from the worldwide pandemic of COVID—19. There were 21 COVID-19—related deaths in the county in 2020, out of 668 total confirmed cases. The impact was especially felt in the New HOrizons Care Center. The long—term care facility endured an outbreak ’ of 39 cases among its residents in October, resulting in 10 deaths. The tragedy occurred despite extensive precautions taken by the facility. The facility closed its doors to the public on Feb. 14, far before the first Big Horn County COVlD-19 case was confirmed in mid April. North Big Horn Hospital has also overcome challenges from the pandemic. To respond to the pandemic, the hospital established a mobile medical unit outside the clinic to han- dle possible COVID-19 cases. It later transformed the old clin- ic into a new respiratory clinic. Since October, the hospital has been near or at capacity sever— al times as hospitals through— out the region dealt with an in- flux of patients. The hospital received nearly $7 million in grants and loans to withstand the impacts of COVID—19 and remains in strong fiscal shape. Just as profoundly impacted by COVID—19 were the schools of north ’Big Horn County. Both Rocky Mountain and Lovell schools shut their doors in March, transitioning from classroom learning to long-distance learning in the space of a single weekend. Spring sports were canceled entirely. Lovell High School held a drive—through graduation ceremony at t e end of the spring semester, as Rocky held theirs on the school football field, every family and students and teachers spread six feet or more apart. It was an open ques- tion over the summer wheth- er schools would return to in—person education when the school year began, but both districts opened their doors to students in the fall. All schools have faced additional challeng- es in doing so, contending with keeping students socially-dis— tanced and protected, how to keep their facility sanitized thorough] and how to fill the spaces 1e t by staff members forced to quarantine. Teach— ers who learned long—distance teaching last year have had to keep it in their repertoire, as teaching quarantined students at a distance became a part of their duties alongside teach- ing students in the classroom. A successful fall sport season was held, with the basketball and wrestling seasons under- way, but attendance has been limited. Currently, only 100 fans are allowed into each bas— ketball game. The silver lining for both districts lies in enrollment. The Lovell school district saw a 25—student jump in enrollment, while District One saw the en- rollment of “brick and mortar” students up 17. Connections Academy, an online school be— longing to District One, has seen a dramatic change in en— rollment, teaching more than 1,200 students statewide after enrollment of 400 in 2019. More obstacles are on the horizon as districts are look— ing at a potential $100 mil- lion statewide cut to educa- tion funding, which may take over $1 million in funds from both Big Horn County School District No. 1 and District No. 2. The cut will likely result in a decrease in staffing, according to both districts. SEE “TOP 10 OF 2020’ page Mountain High School, BY RYAN FITZMAURICE A large increase of students from Connections Academy leaves Big Horn County School District No. 1 in a more stable po— sition to take on significant cuts, but the district still stands to lose staff if the proposed $100 million statewide cut is implemented. “For it not to reach into the staffing area, that would be mi— raculous,” Superintendent Ben Smith said. Similar tQ,,Big..Horn School District No. 2, the majority of Dis- trict One’s budget, 83 percent, lies in salary, benefits and payroll. The district currently has a roughly $18 million budget, and the prOposed cuts would slash $1.8 million. The Select Committee on School Finance Recalibration ad— vanced a bill two weeks ago that proposes the $100 million cut. The bill still needs to be passed by the legislature in order to be enact- ed. Smith said until that process takes place, it’s far too early to tell what exact shape the cuts, if passed, are going to take. 1 “Until we know what the re— ality is, we don’t really know how to proceed,” Smith said. “Even though this bill is coming out of recalibration, until it gets passed, it’s hard for us to overreact.” Still, Smith said, the district is taking the initial steps needed to downsize the district if needed. Currently, the district is taking measures to reduce staff through attrition, meaning they are cre- ating incentive for certain staff members to step down voluntari— ly. Once those staff members step down, existing staff members will fill in the gaps. “We are offering an early re- tirement incentive; we hope to deal with cutting costs through attrition as much as possible,” Smith said. “We are looking at the possibility of maybe consoli- dating programs, utilizing teach— ers across the district better. We don’twant to take away the magic of the teacher in the classroom. I think we want to be real careful to protect that, as well.” It’s not a simple process. Many positions, especially on the secondary level, require accred— itation, which limits what posi- tions can be consolidated. Smith said the district is also looking at the‘possibility of increasing staff sizes, or stretching the duties or class load of certain teachers, de— pending on their certification. “All of that, we’re going to have to do,” Smith said. Still, the district has found a stroke of good fortune. With the SEE ‘EDUCATION CUTS’ page Rep. Flitner to chair Travel and Recreation Committee BY NATHAN OSTER Because of the threat of COVlD—19, the 66th Wyoming Legislature will have a staggered start this year, with one-day vir— tual session featuring the State of the State address by Mark Gor— don kicking things off on Tues— day, Jan. 12. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. Rep. Jamie Flitner, R—Shell, was in Cheyenne earlier this week for her official swearing—in ceremony. She ran unopposed for the Republican nomination and was elected to serve anoth— er two—year term in the Novem— ber general election. She’ll be a virtual partici— pant in Tuesday’s opening ses- sion, which will also include the Constitutionally-mandated elec- tion of leadership and adoption of rules for the legislative ses— sion. When the business is done, there will be a motion to adjourn the session until either February or March. r ' “The hope is by then the vaccine program will have had a chance for widespread im— plementation,” she said. “I had pushed early on to convene as ~usual sending a letter to man- agement council requesting that we do so as a s ring session would be difficult or those of us in agriculture.” She eventually relented, cit- ii 307.578.2800 COdyRl‘qIOHHII'ICZIIIII.OI g Rep. Jamie Flitner ing concerns about staff, many of whom are retirees and among the most at—risk of contracting the virus. “The Legislature/Capital is a petri dish in a normal year,” she said. “With COVID—19, the fear is that we could have a widespread outbreak that would effectively stop the legislative process. “When we reconvene it might be a virtual/in—person session, but no one knows. Many ideas have been kicked around." Whenever it does, Flitner will find herself in a new role. She’s been selected to chair the I: YUUIIIIM‘ Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee (TRW), calling it “an honor" and saying she’s looking forward to the experience. The fate of the gaming com— mission 'will be a topic. Law— makers established the‘ com— mission last year but at the time set a sunset date of July 2021. Flitner said TRW is pushing leg— islation to extend the sunset for three more years. One of its primary tasks will be to address the sunset date on the state gaming commission. Lawmakers established the com-‘ mission last ear but gave it a sunset date 0 July 2021. “Without the extension, we will just be back at square one with gaming,” she said. “The Gaming Commission has pro— mulgated rules and the exten— sion would allow them to contin— ue to tweak those rules and allow the Legislature to continue with a trial run before all out approval. “What we’re already hear- ing from the gaming industry, thou h, is that they want more. But t e tribes are not happy be— cause the state is infringing on their gambling industry, and the historic horse racing folks are protesting because they are con- strained by the ‘opt in’ provision among other regulations.” SEE ‘LEGISLATURE: FLITNER’ page 6 sum I'lltl HORN BASIN CANCER (‘I'IN'I‘I‘IR MAKING YOUR HEALTH A PRIORITY 8 [1 24558" 2 4879 M a