State Releases Plan To Reopen Schools In Fall
Glasgow Schools Working With Staff, Parents, and Students To Form Plan
July 8, 2020
The Governor of Montana Steve Bullock announced in a July 2 press conference his plan for reopening schools in the fall.
Citing the reliance students and parents have on schools for nutrition, socialization and education, and the health benefits of having children in schools, the governor and Lt. Governor Mike Cooney announced that reopening public schools is a top priority.
Similar to the rest of Montana, the school plan will also follow a three-phased approach to reopening that aligns with the same phase as the state. So, as the state transitions from phase one to eventual three, schools will transition simultaneously into their corresponding phase. The plan also leaves much of the decision making on school procedures to the local districts while providing specific guidance and considerations on prevention and accommodating students, teachers and staff.
Schools are allowed to implement more strict measures for reopening during the pandemic, but they will not be able to loosen the measures set by the state. “Nothing in this plan prevents a school from taking additional precautions based on their unique needs,” said Cooney. “Each phase has high-level guidance for schools and includes specific protocols and considerations for individual plans.”
Some considerations noted by the lieutenant governor include accommodations for students, teachers and staff in at-risk groups. Those accommodations may include access to remote learning in lieu of classroom instruction or to work remotely or with added precautions as needed. Other guidance includes occupancy limits to allow for social distancing and procedures for monitoring for symptoms of COVID-19 in students and staff.
Cooney said that practically, schools will limit students to as few classrooms as possible and have teachers rotate instead, assign seats on the bus and take precautions during meals and minimize congregating events. Further resources for identifying social, behavioral and educational issues in students are also discussed in the plan alongside other guidelines for school activities, sanitation and mask wearing during the pandemic.
Superintendent of Glasgow Schools Wade Sundby told the Courier that the district began work on a plan to open in the fall in June. Then, the district established a task force of school board members, administrators, the Glasgow Educators Association and teachers. At their first meeting, the group decided that it was necessary to wait for state guidance before planning for the 2020-2021 year.
“Where we stand right now is to reconvene that group and start the process again,” said Sundby.
Sundby said the group will reconvene with some additions now that the state has released guidance for schools. Building on the task force, the district has invited some parents and they are reaching out to student leadership to represent those interests during the planning process.
“I’m hoping to have something soon. It’s an ever changing thing, a dynamic virus,” stressed Sundby, before adding, “We will need to have a plan by August 1 for parents and teachers to prepare.”
The state is currently in the phase two portion of the governor’s plan to reopen the state of Montana. According to the state’s published plan for reopening schools, phase two guidance state that, “As the state moves into Phase II, school districts will open and to continue to adhere to strict social distancing and building safety protocols [sic]. Limitations around large social gatherings remain in place.”
Phase three eases most restrictions on schools except in relation to large group sizes. It does, however, keep in place guidance for social distancing. The plan reads, “While this phase will facilitate a return to a ‘new normal’ for schools and communities, it will be equally important to continue to monitor public health indicators and adjust strategies to mitigate community spread.”
The Frazer, Hinsdale, Nashua, Opheim and Lustre schools were unable to respond to requests for information about their plans by press time.