MISSOULA — All across the country, school districts have had to make decisions for the safest and most effective way to teach during the pandemic.
For Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS), that meant moving forward in phases - fluctuating between remote and in-person learning.
But now, a few weeks into Phase Two with most students back in class, MCPS teachers are expressing their thoughts and concerns.
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Prior to entering Phase 2, the Missoula Education Association expressed concern that more time was needed to ensure the guidelines set forth by the Harvard Global Health Institute study would be met.
The biggest of those concerns was having enough space to meet the suggested three-feet of social distancing.
Now, nearly a month into Phase 2, Missoula Education Association President KaCee Ballou is weighing in on what she’s seeing.
“We’ve seen more close contacts and quarantined kiddos and that’s definitely been the case,” Ballou said. “And of course, as teachers, we’re waiting still to hear we’re in 1C. And most teachers are able to get the vaccine. That’s definitely been a cause of concern from the get-go all the way through.”
Ballou says some issues right now include navigating social distancing during lunch periods, teaching students the importance of staying within designated pods, and how to safely play indoor sports while being in close contact with athletes from different schools or schedules.
With the recent talk of a possible schedule shift after Spring Break, including the possibility of a five-day school week, Ballou says they hope to keep Monday's remote.
“We definitely see a value in having Monday's to contact trace, to make sure we can deep-clean classrooms, to make sure that we can connect with students who are not just absent for a day or two of instruction at this point, but as close contacts or as positive cases they’re absent for a week plus,” Ballou told MTN News.
Ballou added that while MCPS teachers and staff have varying opinions on how often they believe students should be in the classroom, they all work hard every day to make sure their students are getting the best education possible in the safest way possible.
“Teachers are doing their best to make it work it’s what we do every day, it’s part of what we sign up for, it’s part of the resilience that we teach kids in class and trying to make sure that we are protecting students is one of our jobs,” Ballou said.
Ballou says that, while they may not always see eye-to-eye, the Missoula Education Association has a very good working relationship with MCPS, and they all want what’s best for the students, teachers, and community.