GFPS to continue remote learning for remainder of school year

Remote learning will continue through the remainder of the school year for Great Falls Public Schools.

The board voted unanimously to continue with remote learning in the interest of the health and safety of students and staff.

The board is meeting now and this story will be updated.

Here’s the background on the board’s discussion during an April 27 meeting on whether to reopen or continue remote learning.

GFPS officials discusses factors related to reopening under Bullock’s phased plan

The board declared a continued state of emergency through June 30 and also unanimously adopted emergency policies for operations during the pandemic that will be in effect until the health emergency is over.

The policies address grading, meetings, district events, visitors in GFPS facilities, use of transportation funds, addressing staff, meal service, and more.

Overall, they address, “life in school when a pandemic is still in effect,” said Superintendent Tom Moore.

“You can imagine what kinds of complications we’re going to be facing,” as we prepare for the fall, Moore said.

The board also adopted a policy to address students who prefer to remain at home and do remote learning in the fall if they aren’t comfortable returning to school due to pandemic concerns, but that may need modification as conditions change in the coming months, Moore said.

Teresa Schreiner, GFPS board member, said the district didn’t make an immediate decision regarding remote learning for the remainder of the year since it’s a large organization and there were a number factors that needed to be considered.

“This decision couldn’t be taken lightly,” she said.

The district is still receiving updated guidance from the Cascade County City-County Health Department and the Montana Office of Public Instruction and are regularly learning more.

“Pandemics didn’t come with a rulebook,” Schreiner said. “We’re trying to do what’s in the best interest for families and we’re trying to do it in a time when it’s most difficult.”

Board member Gordon Johnson said, “I feel very good about our decision today. I think it parallels the expectations of our community.”

Superintendent Tom Moore said the district was still working on plans for graduation.

“Graduation is also a large conversation with a lot of moving parts,” he said.

With 250-300 graduates at each high school and another 100 or so at Paris, there are concerns about large group gatherings due to COVID-19, he said and the district is working with health officials to ensure the health and safety of students, staff and the community.

Moore said they’re working toward something hopefully at the Pacific Steel and Recycling Arena with the graduates, but don’t know what kind of audience they’ll be able to have and will also have protocols in place for distancing and preventing the spread of COVID-19.