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Spike in COVID-19 cases pushes Montana school district to remote learning

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Posted at 11:53 AM, Oct 21, 2021

LIVINGSTON — Two schools in the Livingston Public School District have been learning remotely and are set to return to school Monday, Oct. 25.

Sleeping Giant Middle School and Park High School saw a "sharp" increase in COVID cases, possibly because masks were not worn consistently, according to Todd Wester, school administrator with Livingston Public Schools.

Wester recounted the reasoning behind the original mask-optional approach at the beginning of the year.

“The Delta variant would act very differently in our schools than the original Alpha variant. Last year, we did have universal masking last year, but the Alpha variant didn’t spread nearly as quickly,” Wester said.

This year, Wester says there was evidence that there was spread in the classroom, through exponential growth among classmates and students.

Between the two schools, there was an estimate of 39 confirmed cases among students, prompting Sleeping Giant and Park High to revert to remote learning for 10 days.

Wester notes that the district now has a measurement to gauge a potential outbreak.

“Just about every time we hit 1.5 to 2% of the school population positive, we tend to see that move toward an outbreak,” Wester said.

Masks will be strictly enforced moving forward, to ensure that on-site education can be sustained.