This story was updated August 13.
Big Sky School District #72 students will return to school with a plan that cuts every class in half for attendance purposes.
All students will attend school all day every day, with each half of the class alternating between on-line and in-person instruction. The vote for this plan was unanimous at Thursday’s emergency board meeting.
While most parents had indicated in a survey a desire for full-day in person school every day with intense protocols in place, (Plan 3) enrollment numbers for the fall made the appropriate safety protocols of this model impossible. “If we were to meet the CDC guidelines of six foot spacing our capacity in classrooms is about 14 to 16 based on our classroom size,” said Board Chair Loren Bough.
The decision was also made in order to ease safety, streamline contact tracing, and keep kids in school in the event of an outbreak. The division into smaller classes that don’t intermix means that “If we have a positive case from a teacher or a student it wouldn’t necessarily lead to a quarantine of the entire class.” said Bough, keeping in mind CDC guidelines.
Bough said that two weeks prior to the school reopening all staff will be tested. They will also be re-tested after three to four weeks to ensure the school is still safe from any outbreaks. Bough also noted, “In the event that there is a classroom or a student tests positively on their own, we would be able to test the other students in that classroom just to see if there was any evidence of spread.” Two-thousand selfadministered tests have been secured through the Yellowstone Club Community Foundation in order to make this possible.
One thing that is important for students to remember is that this school year will not look like it did last fall. Whitney Littman, Board Vice Chair said, “Hygiene will look really different this year, it’s going to be enforced.” She said students will be expected to wash hands and use hand sanitizer regularly as well as wear school provided face masks one hundred percent of the time.
Temperature taking will also be common, and the school will have thermal imaging to “help identify students and teachers that may come in with symptoms but may not be aware of them,” said Littman. Other new protective strategies will be in place such as plexiglass dividers in the restrooms, and changing air filters regularly.
It is important to remember that this plan is not final and the board is open to new suggestions. They also recognize that as the year progresses these policies will constantly need to be reassessed. Littman noted that they will be keeping in mind what stage the school is in, “we’d really like the opportunity to have students back on campus. We will be reviewing that just so frequently it will be a topic of every discussion.”
With that being said, Littman also made it clear that if students or families are not comfortable attending school in person at all this year, online will be available the entire year. Bough mentioned that the online will look different than it did in the spring. He said, “We’re taking attendance, we’re expecting kids to be engaged and checked in.” The school has made upgrades to the technology delivery platform in order to enrich the experience.
Parent questions and comments about this decision can be directed to this new email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Carly Wilson is the Lone Peak Lookout’s Student Reporter. Born and raised in Big Sky, Carly will be a Junior at LPHS in the fall. The Lookout’s Student Reporter position is a Big Sky Youth Corps’ funded placement.