MCPS plans for in-person classes for fall 2020
June 18, 2020
MISSOULA - The Missoula County Public School District released guidelines about students returning to class for the fall semester. Notably, the District is putting Seeley-Swan High School in a different category from the other schools.
“Seeley-Swan High School, Willard Alternative Learning High School Program and Jefferson Early Learning Center have smaller student populations and will be able to host more students in a face-to-face instructional setting,” the MCPS press release said.
As MCPS prepares for students to be back in class in August, it also addressed some policies to help stop the potential spread of the coronavirus. Though the District has no concrete plan, the trustees discussed alternating school days, how to contact trace with school nurses and what to do about classes over 50 students at their June 9 meeting.
The District first started the Return to School committee at the beginning of May. The committee is tasked with making the decisions for the District, based on other guidelines from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Montana’s Big Sky Phased approach to reopening, as well as the Office of Public Instruction. Since May 7, public schools have had the option to hold classes in person, though MCPS decided to finish the year remotely.
One goal of the District is to make a plan tailored to Western Montana’s COVID-19 conditions and also give perspective to all schools within the District.
“We recognize we are different than some of the large cities on the coast and we have had educators and others really want to highlight we create a very much local refined solution,” said Director of Communications Hatten Littman during the board of trustees meeting June 9. “This plan relies on flexibility, adaptation and collaboration, and that is really from everyone.”
The plan presented by the committee included implement social distancing, frequent sanitation, face coverings for students and staff and limited highly trafficked areas, like lunchrooms or playgrounds, as well as limited contact on buses. The board did not approve the plan.
Another option they looked at was splitting the population in half by the last name and then alternating the days’ students go to school. By having less students physically together, the District hopes to follow CDC guidelines. They would also keep family units in sync on which day they go to school.
With smaller schools like SSHS, MCPS advised that their small school population means some of the guidelines, like alternating school days or eating lunch in classrooms, may not apply.
The committee is also planning a remote option for students and staff with high-risk conditions.
“We are going through process and procedures trying to identify those students and then determine the remote options and how we can keep them safe,” said committee member David Rott.
According to the MCPS, the District identified 14% (1258) of the student population who fall under an at-risk category by the CDC. The District does not keep records of at-risk staff but instead applied the regional data of Missoula to see what percent may not be able to return to work.
The District acknowledged there is no set plan for the fall 2020 semester, as future coronavirus cases in Missoula County are unknown. Regardless, the committee hopes to have detailed guidelines by the end of July.
More details about the plan are available at https://www.mcpsmt.org/Page/15088.