GFPS offers update on school reopening plans, fall sports

The Great Falls Public Schools district is still preparing to return to classrooms in late August, but plans are fluid as the situation continues to evolve.

During a July 30 Facebook live update, Superintendent Tom Moore said that the deadline to opt-in to remote learning for elementary students has been extended to midnight Aug. 13.
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The deadline for secondary opt-in to remote learning closed July 29 but Moore said parents could call their students school to discuss the option if they didn’t fill out the form.

Moore said the district also sent out a letter and survey regarding bus transportation two weeks ago and if parents didn’t get the survey, they can find it here or call 268-6015 to get more information.
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Moore said the district is encouraging parents to drive students to school if possible since the district will be limited by how many students can be on buses under COVID-19 restrictions, including masks and distancing.

The district is also working on plans for falls sports and activities.

Mike Henneberg, GFPS athletic director, said the district received guidance documents this week from the Montana High School Association about those sports and activities.

The MHSA canceled the All State Band, Choir and Orchestra Music Festival that was scheduled for Oct. 14-16 due to concerns of high-risk transmission through the playing of instruments and singing.

The festival will not be rescheduled during the 2020-2021 school year, according to MHSA.
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Henneberg said GFPS fall sports include football, volleyball, cross country, boys and girls soccer and golf. Each has specific requirements for us to conduct events. He said the district is working with the MHSA guidance, the Cascade County City-County Health Department and other AA districts to make plans for events, which will have an emphasis on screening, sanitation and minimizing the risk for students, coaches, staff and anyone at the events.
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Henneberg said there will be changes to scheduling and that some events have been recommended for cancellation while others may be different than in the past, specifically the Great Falls Invitational cross country meet that had more than 1,000 participants last year.

He said MHSA has left event management to local control, so the district is continuing to work with CCHD to develop their plans and “anticipate that they will be different than we’re used to.”
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Whether fan attendance will be allowed at regular season sporting events or how it will be managed is up to school districts in consultation with the local health departments and schools may have to submit a plan for fan attendance for approval, according to MHSA.

Henneberg said they’ll use a screening process but at this point, CCHD hasn’t said temperature checks are necessary. He said they’ll continue to stress the importance of managing your own health and if you’re not feeling well, don’t come to school or practice.
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Lance Boyd, GFPS student services coordinator, said there will be mask requirements in schools and times when it will be encouraged but “we know for any student it’s gong to be difficult to wear a mask,” but especially for medically fragile students.

He said it’s important for parents to think about what their students can tolerate and talk to school officials about it to make plans.

Boyd said the district has been getting a lot of questions about remote learning and encouraged parents to call their schools to discuss options and that the district is working on setting up a distance learning center to support families this year.

Moore said that if parents aren’t hearing the answers they need to email or call the superintendents office at 268-6001.

Moore said he’ll continue doing Facebook live updates on Thursdays regarding school reopening plans.

Moore said the school board will consider the updated school reopening plan and bus plans during their Aug. 10 meeting.