GFPS will return to classrooms on Nov. 30

Great Falls Public Schools is returning to classrooms for in-person instruction on Nov. 30.

The district has been remote since Nov. 16 to slow the spread of COVID-19 within the district and to allow students and staff to complete their quarantine periods.

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Based on the analysis of the data, the district has determined that the majority of staff and students who were in isolation or quarantine to return to work and school.

“We realize, and have taken into consideration, that there is a great deal of concern among staff, parents and community members regarding what is best for our students. After consulting with our task force of health care officials, district administrators and school trustees, a decision has been made to return to face to face learning in our schools,” on Nov. 30, according to a district release.

On Nov. 25, Cascade County added 96 cases for a total of 4,686, according to the state map. Of those, 1,880 are currently active.

GFPS watching COVID-19 situation as planned return to classrooms approaches

The exception to the return to face to face learning will be at East Middle School, which won’t resume until Dec. 2.

“This extended closure will allow the staff at East Middle school an opportunity to meet with the district grief counselors and to adequately prepare for their students to return,” according to the district release. “There will be no expectation/requirement of remote learning for students and staff on those two days.”

In an email to GFPS Superintendent Tom Moore, Trustee Bill Bronson wrote that he was not comfortable a full reopening next week, an opinion he also expressed during the Nov. 23 school board meeting.

“I could possibly accept an opening of the elementary schools, given what appears to be the lower incidence of COVID there, but not the middle schools or high schools. That remains my thinking today,” Bronson wrote to Moore. “The evidence related to community spread and infestation of the virus in our area is very troubling. I do not yet see the evidence that we are sufficiently “out of woods” to justify a full reopening at this time. I am especially concerned we are going to have another surge of this virus soon, if we are not already in it. With that prospect, I fear we will be back where we started in about 2-3 weeks.”

According to a district release, health officials and school district administrators and nurses continue to monitor the local COVID-19 situation, “we may need to return to temporary or extended remote learning in some or all schools at some point. It is the district’s intent that these decisions will be made with enough advanced notification to parents, students and staff so that everyone can prepare adequately for the shift.”

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During the return to classrooms, staff, students and community members are reminded to adhere to safety and health protocols of staying home when feeling sick and notifying your healthcare provided if you have symptoms; wearing a mask in public and in schools at all times; handwashing and physical distancing precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, according to the district release.

“I cannot emphasize enough, how essential and important our teachers and staff are to our children and families in this community for a variety of reasons. They care for and support the developmental, social/emotional and academic needs of 10,000 plus children. Students are simply not optimized unless they are in the presence and oversight of their teachers during the school year. Even the best and brightest are not thriving in this current environment. I implore upon all of us to take extra precautions to keep ourselves healthy and please do not come to work or school if you feel sick. We all need to unite in our habits and practices against this virus, or we will never achieve our goal of students thriving,” GFPS Superintendent Tom Moore wrote in a release.

Several members of the school board expressed concern regarding the return to classrooms so quickly after the Thanksgiving holiday since they expected that people would gather despite warnings from health officials not to.

“The district has made a valiant effort to contain the spread of COVID in our schools. However, as we both know, those efforts are undermined by what happens outside of the schools. Even before the holidays, community spread was a growing problem. I don’t expect that situation to change in the next few weeks,” Bronson wrote in his email to Moore. “I appreciate you have considered a great deal of information and many opinions relative to the reopening question. I also appreciate very much your desire and that of your staff to see as much face-to-face contact between the students and our teachers. I share that desire, but with conditions in our community being as threatening as they are right now, I am compelled to error on the side of utilizing more remote learning, at least at the middle school and high school level, until the end of this year, and into the first week or so of January 2021.”