DOWN to the four members of the Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees who voted Monday night to remove a requirement that students and staff wear face coverings indoors.

After Jan. 21, masks will be “strongly recommended,” not required. Other measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 will be encouraged, including social distancing, washing hands frequently and staying home when sick.

Effective immediately, those who have been exposed to the novel coronavirus don’t have to quarantine from school unless they are displaying symptoms. And those who test positive only have to stay home for five days, and may return to school on the condition they wear a mask for five more days.

LCSD1 Superintendent Margaret Crespo said these changes are in line with new guidelines provided by the Wyoming Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maybe, but we can’t help but feel like it’s a bit premature. And guess what? Leaders of the Cheyenne-Laramie County Health Department agree with us.

In the first week of the winter/spring semester, LCSD1 reported 80 students and 20 staff members with a positive COVID-19 test result. This likely was due to family gatherings and trips over the holidays. Yet on Monday alone, there were 70 new cases – 60 students and 10 staff.

In Natrona County, which also has shortened the quarantine period, cases among young children have “exponentially increased,” and so have hospitalizations in that age group, Dr. Andy Dunn, chief of staff at Wyoming Medical Center, told the Casper Star-Tribune.

That’s because so few children have been vaccinated against COVID-19. In Laramie County, less than 10% of children ages 5-11 have been fully vaccinated, while just under 39% of youth between the ages of 12 and 18 are, according to the Wyoming Department of Health.

Since it’s expected to be several weeks – if not months – until the omicron variant peaks in the western states, these safety measures need to continue. We strongly encourage parents to do what the majority of our public officials won’t – have your children do everything they can to help protect their fellow students, staff, family members and the community at large from a virus that continues to claim an average of 1,700 people a day across our country.

UP to Laramie County Community College officials for seeing the need to develop a new Children’s Discovery Center on campus.

Currently, the LCCC facility serves 20% of students, faculty and community members, and pre-pandemic, that figure was 30%. Although college officials had considered scaling back the facility, President Joe Schaffer said they analyzed its potential profitability and decided expanding it was the better option.

If it goes forward, the mission will be to serve families with a strong nationally accredited early childhood development program. It won’t be cheap – estimates run as high as $12 million – and the funding sources are uncertain at the moment, but we think this is an important investment for our growing community.

UP to Cheyenne city officials for working with Wyoming’s Carbon Asset Network on a “Climate Wellness through Soil Health” initiative.

The goal is to encourage area land managers to seek grants and utilize the group’s other tools to help increase soil health. This could mean customized plans for city parks, golf courses and other properties that lead to more soil organic carbon. The benefit for all of us is cleaner air.

Of course, there’s much more the city can be doing to increase environmental stewardship, including a ban on plastic bags. But this is a good start.

DOWN to the neighbors who harassed Krista Gallardo and her husband over a pole barn built on their property in Lunar View Estates, south of Four Mile Road and east of Powderhouse.

According to testimony to the Laramie County Board of Commissioners, the Gallardos had the barn built to provide a larger storage space for the vehicles and equipment for their landscaping business. But some neighbors assumed the worst. They even asked racist questions about whether “illegals” would be housed in the pole barn, since the landscaper is originally from Mexico, and Mrs. Gallardo’s husband has dual citizenship, too.

County officials had been to the site several times, knew how the barn would be used and encouraged the couple to seek a commercial permit. But that wasn’t good enough for the neighbors, who filed multiple challenges.

Ultimately, the commissioners sided with the Gallardos. But it never should have come to this. What happened to neighbors talking to neighbors and working through issues in a friendly manner? What happened to assuming the best, instead of the fearing the worst?

We think some Lunar View Estates residents need to check themselves, rather than worrying so much about what’s happening next door.

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