Missoula County Public School trustees approve new COVID-19 guidelines

Posted at 9:32 AM, Jan 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-13 14:47:52-05

MISSOULA — Missoula County Public School (MCPS) trustees have approved less restrictive class schedules as the district adjusts its COVID-19 pandemic guidelines.

MCPS has continued to operate schools on a "hybrid" model, using a mix of in-class and remote instruction. But with active case numbers dropping, the district's COVID Task Force recommends the district ease back into more "in-person" learning, starting with K-8 schools first.

Superintendent Rob Waston told trustees new Harvard guidelines indicate schools can still use measures like masks, student groups, contact tracing and regular air exchange to keep students, and teachers, safe.

While most trustees were supportive, Wilena Old Person was upset there were no BIPOC members of the task force, given COVID's impact on those populations.

"Sixteen-percent of our students are BIPOC, black, indigenous, people of color. And that [does] not include the number of our staff, our administrators, who identify as BIPOC,” Old Person said. “BIPOC people in our community, in our state, in our nation have been disproportionality affected by COVID-19.”

“I understand the need as a mother for my children to be in school. But I would rather have my child be alive, and my child's teacher be alive, and their grandparents,” Old Person added.

"When we make this big change. If that begins to go up, we have to be willing to go in the other direction,” commented MCPS Trustee Grace Decker. “Because not one life, is worth academic accomplishments. It is not. Not of my kid, not of your kid. Not one life is worth a grade point average. It is not."

High schools would also move to Phase 2, but on a later timeline as plans for block schedules are developed. Click here to view the latest COVID-19 information from MCPS.

More than 300 people took part in Tuesday’s meeting, showing the level of community interest.

MTN News has also confirmed Dr. Watson is announcing he's quarantining now after testing positive for the coronavirus, with more details being shared with parents on Wednesday.

Phase 2 Modified School Model

  • On-site learning will return to more days for all students, with a shortened day - same as in Phase 1
  • Near to full capacity in schools with modified operations and school activities (modified lunch or recess to limit large grouping)
  • Modified school schedule, shortened day and block schedule to allow for static groupings of students and limit mixing of students
  • Families could choose 100% virtual learning through our MCPS Online Academy.
  • In the event there is a confirmed case, either staff or student, there could be a short term school closure as recommended by MCCHD
  • Limited or modified extra-curricular activities in order to minimize mixing of groups

The implementation plans for all schools will be developed jointly by MCPS administration and education staff and will address the six main infection control practices outlined in the Harvard guidance:

  1. Universal masking (including while speaking)
  2. Hand and bathroom hygiene
  3. Achieving 4-6 air changes per hour of “clean” air through any combination of ventilation and filtration
  4. 3 ft social distancing for young learners at all levels of community spread; 6 ft social distancing for high schools when levels of community spread rise above 100, 100,000 daily new cases
  5. Robust quarantine policies and contract tracing practices
  6. And, where feasible, surveillance/screening testing