Weekly News Roundup: Friday, Sept. 23

Catch up on this week's news about a new carbon offset program, potential changes to short-term rentals in Jackson and Teton County schools' new performance data.
The Jackson Hole Airport has partnered with the Good Traveler Program since 2015 to offset carbon emissions, but travelers can now donate directly to local nonprofits advancing clean energy solutions. (Courtesy of Kevin Dunnigan)

Town Council narrows in on changes to short-term rental policies

The Jackson Town Council is continuing to consider changing regulations for short-term rentals in residential areas outside of the lodging overlay. Advocates say restricting these rentals could give more housing to locals and preserve residential neighborhoods, while critics argue that homeowners need the extra income to continue to live in the region.

Vice Mayor Arne Jorgensen addressed the divisive issue at a council workshop on Monday.

“This is about community character,” Jorgensen said. “It’s about our residential zones. It is about displacement of community.”

Jackson already restricts the number of times homeowners outside of the overlay can rent their properties to 12 times a year, or once every 30 days. But town staff say the rule is largely unenforceable. 

Councilors now seem to be leaning toward requiring all rentals be longer than 30 days — with some exceptions. Local owners will likely be able to get a permit and rent shorter term somewhere between two and six times a year, instead of 12. However, the council has yet to define what constitutes a local or what the permit would entail.

Council member Jim Rooks said he doesn’t want this decision to negatively affect lower to middle class community members. 

“This is a tool historically that’s been used by a lot of folks, segments of our community, that this is the reason they can hang onto their property, whether that’s day to day, year to year or generationally,” he said.

Still divided on the issue, council members voted unanimously to continue the conversation about changes to short-term rentals. They will likely discuss the issue again at an Oct. 17 workshop.

Teton County schools mostly perform above the mark in testing, graduation rates

The Wyoming Department of Education recently released performance results for the 2021-22 school year, and they showed that 30% of the state’s schools performed worse than before the pandemic. However, that doesn’t include most of Teton County schools. 

Superintendent Gillian Chapman said the district didn’t see a COVID-dip like others because of its emphasis on social-emotional learning and virtual tools even before the pandemic.

“Because our staff had such a high relationship with students, we didn’t see some of the students just disappear, as some of the other districts just kind of lost track of kids,” Chapman said.

Almost all of the district’s schools met or exceeded the state’s expectations when it comes to testing, graduation rates, equity and other indicators. Jackson Elementary and Munger Mountain Elementary were the only schools to only partially meet expectations. Those schools also have a high percentage of students who are non-native English speakers. And Chapman said they saw the greatest setbacks during the pandemic since they weren’t always hearing English at home. 

However, she also said the performance data is just one snapshot of a larger picture.

“We use the data to drive the district forward and our grade level and our classroom forward, but I also want to caution that the data don’t become who a kid is,” Chapman said. “It’s just a day in the life of a student.”

Still, Teton County principals are currently analyzing student test results and coming up with school improvement plans. They will present the plan to the public at the Oct. 12 school board meeting.

Airline travelers can now offset emissions with donations to local nonprofit 

Travelers now have the option to offset the carbon footprint of their air travel by donating to Yellowstone-Teton Clean Cities, a Jackson-based nonprofit. It’s part of the ongoing partnership between the Good Traveler Program and the Jackson Hole Airport. 

Yellowstone-Teton Clean Cities Executive Director Alicia Cox said this offers a good way to mitigate the impacts of climate change locally.

“I like the idea that people in our community who want to offset their travels will be able to donate money through the airport, through this Good Traveler Program, and be able to see the impact of that offset right here in our community,” Cox said. “Even folks that travel here from out of town can know that they’ve left a positive impact in the community that they traveled to.” 

Jackson Hole travelers have been able to buy carbon offsets through the Good Traveler Program since 2015, but now they can make hyper-local contributions based on their mileage. Donations will go toward advancing eco-friendly forms of transportation, like electric vehicles and e-bikes. More information is available on the Good Traveler website.

Jane Goodall, Juan Martinez Pineda received conservation awards in Jackson Monday

Teton Science Schools hosted the 12th Annual Murie Spirit of Conservation Awards in Jackson on Monday, Sept. 19. The event honored Jane Goodall, who received this year’s Spirit of Conservation Award for her decades-long studies of Tanzanian chimpanzees and her dedication to protecting wildlife. Teton Science Schools alum Juan Martinez Pineda also received an award as a rising leader.

Read KHOL’s full coverage here.

Flu shots now available

The Teton County Health Department is offering flu shots starting Wednesday, Sept. 26. Appointments will be available at the department’s office on East Pearl Avenue every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Appointments can be booked in advance here. Shots are also available at local pharmacies.

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