GFPS to discuss, vote on reopening plan during July 15 special meeting

Updated 1 p.m. July 15

The Great Falls Public Schools board and administrators are scheduled to discuss plans for the fall reopening during a special meeting on July 15.

Superintendent Tom Moore said during the regular July 13 board meeting that district officials have been working on a draft plan that has been approved so far by Trisha Gardner, the county health officer. Gardner will also join the board during their work session on July 15 to discuss the plan from 3-4:30 p.m., Moore said.

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The board is then expected to discuss and vote on the reopening plan during their meeting at 5 p.m. July 15.

As of 1 p.m. July 15, the draft reopening plan had not been released to the public for review.

The district has decided to livestream the meeting on its Facebook page and the public can submit comments in advance or during the meeting to Comments on the Facebook page do not constitute public comments for the meeting.

Moore said the plan will be flexible to be able to adapt to changing COVID-19 conditions.

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Gov. Steve Bullock’s office and the Montana Office of Public Instruction issued guidance for school districts on reopening schools in the fall for the 2020-2021 academic year.

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Many of the action items will require funding, in part through the federal CARES Act that passed funds through Montana OPI to GFPS and will be reflected in the budget that will be adopted in August, according to the district.

During the July 13 meeting, the board voted to revise its policy that allows families to opt out of onsite instruction at a school facility for the remainder of the pandemic.

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The board had adopted the policy already but with a form from the state school board association and during the July 13 meeting, voted to delete that form in favor of a locally developed form that will be part of the district’s reopening plan discussion on July 15, Moore said.

The form will be available at the district office and individual schools.

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Teresa Schreiner, school board member, suggested making it available online for parents and Moore said staff would take that under advisement.

Jeff Gray, board member, said this policy is largely in the hands of the community by wearing masks and taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 so that parents can go back to work and children can return to safe schools.

During the July 15 meeting, the school board will also be asked to declare an unforeseen emergency under state law due to the COVID-19 pandemic, effective retroactively to July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 or until Montana health officials and/or the governor’s office declare that the pandemic emergency has subsided.