GREAT FALLS — On May 7th, all public schools will have the option to return to in-classroom teaching at the discretion of local school boards - but most have already opted to continue distance learning for the rest of the current school year. Governor Steve Bullock directed all of Montana’s public K-12 schools to close starting on Monday, March 16 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the closure has remained in effect.
The Great Falls Public Schools District had originally planned to announce on May 4 whether classes will resume on campus, or remain virtual/online for the remainder of the school year. However, the Board of Trustees conducted a special meeting at noon on Friday, May 1st, and announced that they will not re-open campuses, and distance learning will continue for the remainder of the current school year.
There is no word yet on whether GFPS will host a modified ceremony for seniors; we will update you as we get more information.
During a work session on Monday, GFPS trustees asked health experts about bringing more than 10,000 students, teachers, and staff back into the district's buildings. Trisha Gardner, the health officer of the Cascade City-County Health Department, says she doesn’t think it is a good idea: “I think it opens up a potential floodgate for this to spread very quickly and easily throughout our community.” She also says the main concern is asymptomatic spread. Since children and young adults have been seen with little to no symptoms, it could spread very easily without being detected. During the work session, trustees said that a survey of parents indicated that 71% of the more than 5,000 respondents said they are not in favor of re-opening schools at this point.
Many other school districts announced this week that they will not re-open classrooms for the remainder of the current school year, including Billings, Bozeman, Glasgow, Missoula, Butte, Helena, and Whitefish.
Several days ago, GFPS announced that it is adopting a "Pass/Fail" for the latter portion of the current school year for middle schools and high schools; click here for details. In related news, the Montana High School Association announced on Wednesday that all spring sports in schools across Montana have been canceled for the remainder of the school year.
Foothills Community Christian school in Great Falls also announced this week that it will continue the rest of the academic year online, and wrap-up the school year on May 22nd. Foothills will still conduct an in-person graduation ceremony. “We have five graduates, so we believe with five graduates and the size of the sanctuary, we should be able to get the social distancing we need, said David Culpepper, Foothills Community Christian Head of School. Graduation will be held on Friday, May 22nd at 6 p.m. at Central Assembly of God church. Culpepper said they're still figuring out if there will be restrictions on how many people can attend the ceremony.
Great Falls Central Catholic High School announced several days ago that it will continue remote learning for the remainder of this school year and conduct a "modified" graduation ceremony on May 31st, as planned. Details for that ceremony will come out in the next few weeks.