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Kalispell superintendent recommends online learning for remainder of school year

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Posted at 4:47 PM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 18:47:37-04

KALISPELL — Part of Governor Steve Bullock’s phase one reopening of Montana gives school districts the option of returning to in-classroom learning on May 7th.

On Thursday, Kalispell Superintendent Mark Flatau told MTN News he is now recommending online learning in the district for the remainder of the school year.

Flatau’s recommendation to keep classes virtual will be voted on during Kalispell’s School Board Meeting on Tuesday.

He said the only exception for in-person learning would be for one-on-one guidance between a staff member and student needing specific academic or emotional support.

Flatau said he’s received feedback from concerned families about returning safely back to school.

He said the school districts number one priority is safety for students, staff and families.

“We feel that remaining in predominantly an online distance learning format for the remainder of the year is what’s best for our kids, our staff, our families,” said Flatau.

Flatau adds, school district officials will remain in constant contact with Flathead County health officials as they move forward.

Whitefish School District Superintendent Heather Davis Schmidt endorsed virtual learning for the remainder of the school year in a Facebook post Thursday afternoon.

The Whitefish school board will consider the recommendation at a meeting on Monday.

Here is the full press release from the Whitefish School District:

After consulting with Flathead City-County Health Department officials, conferring with school superintendents across the Flathead valley, and discussing with Whitefish School District leaders, I will be recommending to the Board of Trustees that the safest option for the remainder of the school year will be to continue with remote learning. The board will meet on Monday, April 27 at 4pm to take this matter under consideration.

Yesterday, the governor directed that each school district in Montana will have local control on whether to return to in-class learning in some form — although in order to accomplish this, stringent requirements to keep students and staff safe would need to be in place, such as wearing masks, maintaining social distancing in classrooms, limiting groups to no more than 10. Additionally, I am anticipating our local health department to make recommendations for even stricter limitations for Flathead County.

The requirements set by the governor and local health officials would make the logistics of any on-site instruction tremendously impractical — and I believe there would be a significant risk of transmission of disease.

I know the hardships remote learning has created for our families. The health and safety of students, families, and staff is my highest priority. We will continue to communicate with you following the Board's decision early next week and as we work through more details.

Sincerely,

Heather Davis Schmidt
Superintendent
Whitefish School District