MCPS high school students voice concerns over possible schedule shift

Posted at 9:57 AM, Feb 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-23 11:57:33-05

MISSOULA — Missoula County Public School (MCPS) students have seen their school schedules and activities go through a number of adjustments over the past several months, leaving students weary from the constant changes.

A group of seniors has now put together a petition in an effort to let their voices be heard as they face the potential for another schedule shift.

MCPS high school students are entering their fourth week of Phase 2 learning, which has put all students back in the classroom Tuesday through Friday.

After hearing talk of the possibility of adding Monday as a fifth day of in-class learning, a group of seniors put together a petition in an effort to have their voices heard.

“There was a poll going around the union that talking about like how teachers felt about moving back to five-day weeks, and I wanted to do something similar for the students,” explained Hellgate High School senior Luke O’Connell.

The response was bigger than O’Connell expected with a total of 930 responses representing Hellgate, Big Sky, Sentinel, and Missoula Online Academy.

The petition included a poll with three questions, all centered around what students wanted to do with their remote learning Mondays. The results were overwhelmingly in favor of keeping Mondays remote, for a variety of reasons.

“They use it as kind of a catch-up day for some things, a lot of the teachers at Hellgate use it as kind of an office hours theme," commented Hellgate High School senior Cole Amish.

“We do have a lot of students that are dependent upon those Monday hours specifically for working and a lot of that income goes toward supporting entire families for hour schools," observed Big Sky High School senior Fiona Morrow.

“Teachers and staff use it prep for those four days and if we add that fifth day, we’re putting more kids at risk with less time for contact tracing by the nurses and less time for deep-cleaning by the nurses," O'Connell told MTN News.

The other concern among students -- which spanned across all of the represented high schools -- was a need for consistency. Over the last calendar year, students have gone from a five-day schedule to all remote, to a hybrid, and now to four days a week. Students say the constant adjustments are fatiguing, and they want consistency over these next three-plus months.

“There’s a push for consistency because our school schedule has changed so many times over the year that we just want a final decision made,” Murrow said. “We just want to see that decision announced and kept to it and stop discussing what the future of our schedule is going to before the next few months so we can just finish out the year."

After talking with MCPS and the teacher's union within the last two days, they know they will continue with the current format through Spring Break. What happens beyond that will be determined by MCPS in the coming days.

MCPS administrators sent an email to parents on Monday afternoon about their schedule leading up to Spring Break. They plan to send another later this week detailing the schedule for after Spring Break. The MCPS Board of Trustees will meet on Tuesday Tuesday evening.