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Two Livingston schools shift to online learning after COVID spike

Livingston, Montana
Tim Gage
Creative Commons
Livingston, Montana

Sleeping Giant Middle School and Park High School in Livingston, Montana, have temporarily shifted to remote learning due to a rising number of COVID-19 cases in the area.

On Tuesday, the Livingston School Board voted 7-1 to move classes online until Oct. 25. The district has had a mask mandate in place since mid-September.

School nurse Holly Sienkiewicz, who splits her time between one of the elementary schools in the district and the high school, says she has seen low mask compliance among middle and high school students.

“We have a bag of tricks that are proven to be very effective at preventing the spread of COVID and at the very, very bottom is moving to offsite learning,” Sienkiewicz said. “We never wanted to do it this year. It was always our goal to remain open.”

Livingston School Board member Dan Vermillion voted in favor of the shift to online learning, but expressed frustration as a parent of school-aged children.

“I have three kids who are going to come home and live in my house for the next 10 days if we vote for this," he said. "That’s a real impact on me, an impact on my wife, it’s an impact on both our businesses and I guarantee you that there are hundreds of parents out there tonight feeling that same level of 'Oh gosh what are we going to do for the next 10 days.'”

Extracurricular activities that are not currently in quarantine are still scheduled as normal.

Earlier this week, Phillipsburg Public Schools announced via Facebook it was shifting to online learning. Great Falls High School and Plains High School have also pivoted to online learning during COVID-19 outbreaks this school year.

According to the Livingston School District’s COVID-19 dashboard, there are currently 34 confirmed cases among students at the middle school and high school.

Olivia Weitz covers Bozeman and surrounding communities in Southwest Montana for Yellowstone Public Radio. She has reported for Northwest News Network and Boise State Public Radio and previously worked at a daily print newspaper. She is a graduate of the University of Puget Sound and the Transom Story Workshop.