GREAT FALLS — After the announcement from Governor Steve Bullock that all K-12 public schools in Montana would be closed until at least March 27th, it was really a no-brainer for Timothy Bass, owner of Bass Clef School of Music in Great Falls.
“Obviously we deal with a big share of students that are under the age of 18, so we felt it prudent to probably follow suit,” Bass said. “We didn’t want them to be in an environment that would risk their health, and so we decided to either do summer makeups for the students, let the students decide on that one.”
Bass teaches music lessons to more than 150 students - or at least, he did, until the restrictions caused by coronavirus kicked in. Now all of that is up in the air. In an effort to put everyone’s health and safety first, the school is now offering students two options: put their lessons on pause until the summer (hopefully), or continue them online. So far, only about 12 students have begun taking their classes online, but it’s not a rare occurrence.
“It’s not an uncommon thing anymore for people to do lessons online, so it’s a little bit trickier,” explained Bass. “Sometimes the intonation, you can’t always hear those kinds of things very accurately. It’s also hard to really see the child’s hands when they’re on the piano, those sorts of things. So, there are some obstacles that we’ve got to try to get over the hurdles with, but overall it seems to be a fairly decent transition.”
Skype, FaceTime, and Facebook are the main platforms that the school is utilizing in the interest of keeping business afloat while maintaining a safe distance of at least six feet away from everyone. Bass even went through the trouble of buying new speakers so that he could hear his students better, and while he isn’t all that familiar with Facebook and Skype, he says he’s making progress. Just be patient while he learns.
As for the challenges that teaching online presents, it’s mostly about making sure people show up on time. A problem that isn’t all that rare with normal music lessons.
“The biggest challenge is ensuring that the students are online when they're scheduled to be online,” Bass said with a laugh. “Because it's kind of like a revolving door. At a certain point in the in the day, typically after three o'clock, when one student finishes up, another student comes in and so it's going to be kind of the same scenario with this. Also if they're not prepared and they're not online when they're suppose scheduled to be, that could slow some of the processes up.”
All in all, Bass hopes that everyone continues to support small businesses during this outbreak; his and everyone else’s.
“You look down Central Avenue and it's almost a ghost town,” he said. “I think that if we just all stick together and work together and hold each other up, we'll all make it. It's going to be tough even after this is said and done. I suspect it's going to be tough even for several weeks, maybe even a few months after it's all done cause then we have to recoup everything.”
As of Monday afternoon (March 23), there are 45 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) in Montana.
Here is the total by county:
Lewis & Clark: 3
Silver Bow: 2
There have not been any deaths in Montana attributed to COVID-19 at this point.
Officials in Montana are keeping a list of confirmed cases in the Treasure State on an updated map and website - click here to visit the site. A spokesman for the Montana COVID-19 Task Force says that positive test results for Montana residents who are currently outside the state will not be included in the totals reported on the website, and said: "The state recognizes that its reporting totals will differ from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) total as a result of these reporting processes." Experts still believe the true number of people infected with COVID-19 remains much higher than the number of confirmed cases.
As of Monday afternoon, the DPHHS public health lab in Helena has completed 1,688 tests for COVID-19.
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