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Kalispell schools navigating spike in Flathead County COVID-19 cases

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Posted at 5:25 PM, Oct 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-06 20:27:07-04

KALISPELL — Flathead County is seeing a dramatic rise in Covid-19 cases with more than 700 new lab-confirmed positives in the past two weeks.

Nineteen schools across the Flathead Valley are seeing positive Covid-19 cases in students and staff causing disruption in the classroom.

Data made available from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services through September 25, shows Kalispell’s Flathead High School has the highest number of positive cases associated with a public school across the state.

Kalispell Superintendent Micah Hill said he is pleased with the school district’s Covid-19 response relative to the high number of positive cases seen county-wide.

“We’re not seeing transmission within our schools, that would be a very concerning thing for us, which also helps us know that the things that we’re doing are the right things to do to slow and prevent the spread of COVID,” said Hill.

Hill said the school district reassess their current in-person learning model on a daily basis and have no plans as of now to switch back to full remote learning.

He says the district’s biggest threat to shutting down in-person instruction is what happens outside of the classroom.

“Personally, it feels like we’re doing everything that we can, but then if those same protocols and things are not in place outside of school, it’s going to have a negative impact on schools and our ability to remain open,” said Hill.

Flathead County Public Health Officer Tamalee Robinson said most student transmission has occurred outside of school activities such as cast parties, slumber parties, and birthday parties.

She said families need to take small mitigation steps to help keep schools open.

“Please wear a mask and be mindful of what you’re letting your children do outside of school hours,” said Robinson.

Kalispell Superintendent Micah Hill said one positive case in school can lead to 10-15 close contacts needing to be quarantined for two weeks

He says a challenge has been readjusting students back to in-person learning after quarantine.

“Those kids who get put in quarantine and how do you get them back into school and not have this lag in education because two weeks out is a pretty significant amount of time,” said Hill.

Hill says the current remote learning model is maxed out with 13% of students participating district-wide.