GFPS board to consider, vote on final reopening plan Aug. 10

The Great Falls Public Schools board is scheduled to review and approve the reopening plan for the 2020-2021 academic year during their Aug. 10 meeting.

The school board approved a draft plan in mid-July that has not yet been posted to the GFPS website, nor is the plan included in the board packet for the Aug. 10 meeting, but members of the school board provided the document to The Electric and it is available here.

The district is planning to return to school for face-to-face instruction though families can opt out and choose remote learning.

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As of Aug. 9, there were 166 total cases in Cascade County, four deaths and 54 active cases.

Gov. Steve Bullock has listed Cascade County as a COVID-19 hotspot for the last two weeks, along with eight other counties, since there are more than 50 active cases.

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The GFPS reopening plan is flexible to allow for adjustments as COVID-19 conditions change locally or with additional guidance from health agencies.

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“The district plan for face to face learning in our schools will be modified by the health and safety protocols and requirements put into place. These modifications are outlined in this summary document. In The plan, the health and safety of our students and employees, and all of their families, take precedence. We will have safeguards in place to lower the risk of coronavirus transmission. When we learn of positive cases in our student or adult populations, we will work quickly to identify and isolate anyone who may have been exposed. We are working closely with health care and public health professionals in our community to make timely and appropriate decisions on behalf of all for whom we are responsible,” according to the draft plan being considered by the board Aug. 10.

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There will be financial implications for reopening in the time of COVID and the district will use funds from the federal CARES Act, that has been funneled through the Montana Office of Public Instruction to local school districts. Those funds will be included in the GFPS budget for this year that will be adopted this month.

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As proposed, the GFPS plan would be approved by the school board but also allow the superintendent or a designee, in consultation with state and local health officials, to make necessary adjustments as the COVID-19 situation evolves.

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GFPS is planning to have students return to class Aug. 26, five days a week, but with modified schedules to group students in cohorts and limit interaction between the groups and student movement in the building.

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The draft plan includes the following, among other details:

  • Elementary and middle school students are in class and grade level cohorts;
  • Schedules are designed to limit large gatherings in library, gym, lunch area or playground;
  • High schools will implement block Sschedules to reduce frequency of movement and make time for cleaning;
  • Large group gatherings will be mitigated with physical distancing, masks or eliminated;
  • Physical distancing of students and staff will occur to the degree necessary for the activity, event and location. In most classrooms 3-6 feet is achievable;
  • The wearing of masks will be required in most settings, especially where optimal physical distancing cannot occur. For example, on school buses and in some classrooms;
  • Some offices may have transparent barriers for student and staff protection;
  • Limited numbers of spectators will be allowed at student events and there will be adequate physical spacing between seats and rows in common gathering places;
  • Hallway traffic will be one way if possible. Clearly defined and marked flow directions will be posted in hallways. Stanchions and retractable roping may be utilized to route traffic patterns;
  • Routines and procedural expectations will be taught within content classes to accommodate physical distancing and safe practices;
  • Elementary recess schedules have been established to keep cohort groups of students together on the playgrounds.

For more information about the draft plan, contact Superintendent Tom Moore at 406-268-6001, or Chairman Jan Cahill at 406-899-1988 or email at