Public K-12 schools in Montana will have the option of reopening their doors to students May 7. Gov. Steve Bullock made that announcement Wednesday, about five weeks after ordering their closure due to coronavirus concerns.
Bullock says districts will have the choice to reopen or to continue with remote learning, adding that schools have the potential to increase transmission of the virus.
"Yet, we need to be thinking about how to minimize the risk of transmission and still serve our children how and where they need it most," Bullock says. "COVID-19 will be with us, not just for the next several months, but we may well be facing these same issue next fall when school starts."
Bullock is asking schools that do reopen this spring to think about limiting class sizes, potentially by offering blended in-person and remote instruction to students while allowing immune compromised students and staff to continue working and learning from home.
Billings Public Schools Superintendent Greg Upham says his school board will ultimately make the decision whether to reopen. But he says it would be incredibly difficult to move forward with a mix of in-person and online classes.
"Teachers teaching on duel platforms; can they really do that? That’s a load."
Ahead of Bullock’s new order some school districts had already announced they will keep their doors closed for the remainder of the school year. The governor assured schools staying online that they’ll continue to receive state funding and that their remote learning plans currently in place will continue to waive in-person instruction hour requirements.
Bullock’s guidance also calls for increased cleaning and sanitation in schools, checking student and staff temperatures at the door when possible, and requires anyone with symptoms to stay home.