GREAT FALLS — Many students will be heading back to school in Great Falls in several weeks, as the Great Falls Public School District has released a plan that will adapt to what phase the state is in.
The plan is actually a draft, and subject to change over the next three weeks as comments, questions, and concerns are collected from district employees, students, and parents.
According to GFPS superintendent Tom Moore, this plan has been in the works since April, even before the previous semester concluded. He says that the best way for the public to give feedback on the plan is to send a message directly to the Superintendent’s email. There are also public comment periods at all GFPS board meetings, although anyone wishing to speak must fill out a “Request to Comment” form prior to the meeting. Additionally, changes are expected to be made between now and August 10, and it is unclear if any changes will be made at the next board meeting itself.
The district is inviting the public - especially GFPS teachers, students, and parents - to read through the plan and provide feedback. Moore also said the plan will be sent directly to teachers in the coming days to ensure that they are comfortable with what will be asked of them, especially as it pertains to cleaning school property, social distancing, mask policy, and other important health-related guidelines.
Some of the highlights from the plan:
- The district plans for Face to Face learning in a traditional school setting will be modified by the Health and Safety protocols and requirements put into place. The accommodations and remediation for students who need support is being addressed in preparation for school reopening.
- Remote Learning: Great Falls Public Schools is offering full time remote opportunities to students and families who desire this model of instruction. Because of the staffing needs for remote learning, students and families are asked to make a commitment to this endeavor. In the secondary (7-12) students and families are asked to make a minimum commitment of one trimester in the middle school, and one semester in the high school.
- 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 Schedules 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 busses and in some classrooms. Many hallways are being marked for directional traffic flow and some offices 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.
- It is requested that ALL staff, visitors and students wear a mask. There will be specific instances where masks or cloth face coverings will be required. All staff, visitors and students must wear a cloth face covering when they come into a school or district building and must wear that face covering whenever they are in common areas. Staff, visitors and students will wear the cloth face covering when they enter the building, they are in hallways, when in the presence of a known health compromised student or staff member, and any shared areas where a physical distance of six-feet cannot be maintained (shared offices, classrooms with students, etc). Masks and cloth face coverings must be school appropriate.
- Parents are encouraged to transport students whenever it is feasible to do so. Students will be assigned seats according to the recommended standards.Family groups of students will be asked to sit together. Students will be seated two to a seat on most routes. Masks will be worn by students on school buses. Windows will be open to provide ventilation when feasible. Students will use hand sanitizer on the bus. Sanitation of seats and hand rails will occur between routes whenever possible.
- Hallway traffic will be one way if possible. Clearly defined and marked flow directions will be posted in Hallways. Stanchions and retractable roping will be utilized to route traffic patterns.
- Students will be kept in cohort groups for cafeteria meal service and dining. Routines and procedural expectations will be taught with intention within content classes to accommodate physical distancing and safe practices. Students and staff will be required to wear face coverings while in line. Touchless ID entry for students will be implemented. Staff will maintain cleanliness of tables and seats between meal periods.
- Health and safety standards are being implemented in Choral and Instrumental music classrooms. Live Concerts, performances and exhibitions are being reevaluated. Limited Concert performances with smaller groups of students live before a guest audience where physical distancing and other safety protocols are in place. Exhibitions and Gallery shows will need to follow physical distancing guidelines as well.