NewsGreat Falls News


Working to keep students safe

Rae Smith, the principal of Sacajawea
Chuck Wood
Posted at 5:30 PM, Jan 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-20 19:40:12-05

GREAT FALLS — COVID-19 has put a magnifying glass on surfaces we touch every day. I took some samples from play areas in Gibson, Lions, and Memorial park in Great Falls using prepared agar plates. What was the verdict? Germs, germs, and more germs.

Play time at city parks has been a popular trend for parents since the start of the pandemic.

“It was impossible to find anything for him to do because everything was shut down. So we were trying to get creative and find random things to appeal to him, a five-year old, which is tough,” said Chuck Wood about why he takes his son to Gibson Park.

Wood says it’s been hard for his son to understand why he has to wear a face mask now that he has turned five-years-old, “It’s just been difficult and it will be exciting when this is all over. We can get back to being normal again. Everyone keeps saying this is the new normal. It’s not, it’s just another thing we have to go through and just push through it."

Until we can get back to normal, the mantra for Sacajawea Elementary School students is, “Our eyes are facing forward, Our voices are off, we are keeping our distance, and we are gel-ing out!”

Rae Smith, the principal of Sacajawea, has worked with Cascade County Health Officer Trisha Gardner to create COVID-19 protocols to keep her students healthy.

“When they go to recess they’re given a designated area to play in their classroom so again they stay with their group. They mask up throughout the school day. When they do get outside to play and when they’re actively playing though, they get to take their masks off. They play for their recess time and then they mask up and get ready to come inside,” said Smith.

Students stay within their classroom groups for recess and lunch time. The school has also made their hallways one-directional and have staff that monitor the students' interaction on the playground.

”So far we have been doing really well. So what that's showing us is that what we're doing in schools is working,” said Smith about how the school has bounced back from a surge in November.

Gardner says that all the guidelines for COVID-19 remain the same. The community is asked to limit time spent with individuals outside of their immediate family, wear a face mask in public, and keep six-feet of distance from others.