Schools To Finish Year Online
Spring Sports Canceled
April 29, 2020
Governor Bullock announced a phased reopening plan on April 22 in order to provide Montanans with the ability to return to a little bit of normalcy. The plan included schools having the option to return to in-classroom teaching beginning May 7 while considering cleaning and sanitation protocols, sick policies and limiting class sizes. As a result of the Governor’s May 7 date, the Montana High School Association announced the spring 2020 sports season has been canceled due to in-person instruction not returning by May 4.
Following the announcement, school districts across Valley County had a lot to think about, in terms of what was in the best interest of all involved, on how to move forward with finishing out the school year.
To ensure the voice of the community was heard during any decision making process, Glasgow parents Brian and Victoria Gregory created an online petition to keep Glasgow schools closed for the rest of the 2020 school year. The petition garnered 347 signatures upon submission to Glasgow School Superintendent Wade Sundby, the Glasgow School Board and the Valley County Health Board prior to a special school board meeting on April 25. The Gregorys’ motivation for starting the petition was simple, they said returning to “business as usual" was not going to be in the best interest of students.
“We also knew that we weren’t alone in this concern, and we wanted to make sure all voices that could express themselves were given a chance to be heard in the short time between the announcement and the actual school board meeting,” stated B. Gregory.
Over 70 participants attended the virtual special school board meeting, including teachers, staff, parents and community members, in addition to the Glasgow School Board and Superintendent Sundby. The meeting started off with a public comment period, where the question of what graduation will look like was brought up. Sundby stated graduation will be on the same date, May 24, and time, 3 p.m., as originally scheduled, but a plan is being developed with students and advisors to determine the logistics of the ceremony itself.
“We’re working with KLTZ/KLAN to stream through the radio as well as broadcast, it may end up being Facebook Live, but we are in the process of planning for graduation on the date and time it’s currently set for. Just understand that it will be limited for the attendance piece to the immediate household and we’re working on what it looks like,” stated Sundby. He did assure once plans are finalized, further information will be released.
The discussion then transitioned into deciding how Glasgow Schools should operate through the end of the school year. Sundby stated after taking all things into consideration, including the Governor’s guidelines, and the different options presented, including off-site learning, going back to school, or a blended learning model where kids would be in school part of the day while the other part of the day would be remote learning, he made the recommendation to the school board to continue with the school’s remote learning plan until the end of the school year.
“I don’t feel it’s in the best interest of the Glasgow school district or the best interest of the Glasgow community to come back to people in our brick and mortar situation,” he stated. School board member John Daggett made the motion to proceed with Sundby’s recommendation, school board memebr Suzanne Billingsley seconded with the rest of the board agreeing with the recommendation.
Sundby stated to the Courier the citizen-driven petition did not sway him to recommend one way or the other, as, as a district conversations were already in process regarding reopening or closing the school buildings and his recommendation to the board was based upon those conversations. He did say he appreciates the efforts made by the community to express their opinions and make their voices heard. “It was good to hear from the community on how they would like to proceed with the school and their children’s education. It was nice to see the community ideas through the petition,” he said.
The decision was well-received by those at the meeting. Parent and PTO member Kim Turner told the board, “Thank you so much for your hard work. You sure are appreciated!”
Karen Breigenzer added, “Thank you to the School Board and all district employees for your extraordinary efforts.”
“I would say ‘I’m glad the board made the choice that they did,’ but that isn’t entirely accurate. I’m not ‘glad’ that our kids aren’t having lunches with their friends, filling the lunchrooms and hallways with their laughter. I’m not ‘pleased’ that none of us will be attending spring music programs, plays, track meets or countless other activities that remind us just how wonderful our children and schools are,” Brian Gregory told the Courier after the meeting.
Grab and go meals will continue to be available for children age zero to 18, regardless of free and reduced lunch status, throughout the closure of school at both Hoyt Park and in front of the Northern Heights Community Center for Northern Heights residents only. To ensure the safety of those handing out meals and the community members grabbing the meals, sanitizing stations will continue to be set up and only one adult should come pick up the meals to minimize congregation of students and parents.
Reflecting upon the decisions that were made and how to move forward, B. Gregory brought praise to the teachers, staff and administration. “I am grateful to the School Board and Mr. Sundby for making this difficult choice and I am overwhelmingly thankful to the teachers and staff of the Glasgow School system for putting in the extra effort to make sure our children are still learning in these trying, unprecedented times,” stated B. Gregory.
Other Valley County schools will follow suit, if they haven’t already, in finishing the school year online.
Before the Governor’s announcement, Superintendent of Nashua School James Russell and the Nashua School Board met earlier in the month to discuss how learning will look in the future. In a conference call with county leaders on April 23, Superintendent Russell reported Nashua school adjusted their school calendar by adding Fridays and will end the school year on May 15, which is approximately two weeks earlier than originally scheduled. Bus drivers will be collecting any completed homework and band instruments from students on May 11 and they will also be collecting completed homework on May 15. In a letter sent to parents and guardians, students will have the opportunity to clean out student lockers, return learning materials, pay any accounts and collect fourth quarter report cards May 20, 21 and 22 based upon a student’s grade level.
The Hinsdale School board was scheduled to meet April 28, allowing Superintendent Steve Morgan to present his recommendation to keep Hinsdale School doors closed as well as discuss graduation plans. Opheim School also held a special school board meeting on April 28 to consider all recommendations and opinions provided by local health officials, parents, teachers and staff. On April 23, Frazer School stated they would be holding a special school board meeting as well to continue online learning and homework packets for students or return to the classroom. As of press time, no decision had been made.