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'New normal' Kalispell School District prepares for new school year

Glacier High School
Posted at 5:18 PM, Aug 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-25 19:22:42-04

KALISPELL — The Kalispell School District will welcome students back to the classroom next week as the new school year officially gets underway.

This year will look a little different in the classroom as face coverings will not be required for students and staff.

“To come to the school year having had a lot of success last year amidst all of the challenges feels great and exciting to get back to the classroom,” Glacier High School Choir Director Nathan Connell told MTN News.

A sense of normalcy will return to Kalispell schools as face coverings will not be required for students and staff in the classroom after the decision was unanimously approved by the school board earlier this month.

Connell said it’s a welcoming change compared to March of 2020 when schools adjusted quickly to online learning.

“There was no way to even try to teach music or choir online, so being back in-person last year was a huge win, talking with friends around the country who were shutdown pretty frequently or were online the whole year, it was a blessing to be able to be in-person, but this year to be able to be a little bit closer, to not have masks and let the kids express fully is going to be awesome,” said Connell.

Connell teaches five choir classes with close to 120 kids in his program. He said a priority of his will be to make sure all students feel comfortable in his classroom whether they decide to wear a face-covering or not.

“If your choice is on one end or the other that we’re here for you and making you feel comfortable, you know especially with singing that’s a big thing, if they’re feeling more comfortable with a mask or more comfortable without a mask, they’re going to be able to do what they need to do, and we can get back to making music,” said Connell.

Kalispell School District Superintendent Micah Hill said roughly 70% of all school district staff are vaccinated while the total number of students vaccinated is unknown. Hill strongly encourages all eligible to get vaccinated.

“Without question, you’re going to hear from me, strongly encourage people to get the vaccinations, coming from the health department and everybody else that is the number one mitigation strategy for preventing the spread of COVID and just experiencing the ill-effects of catching the virus,” said Hill.

Hill said the district can still enact a face-covering requirement if an increase in COVID-19 cases is threatening school closures. “We’re hopeful that won’t be the case, but we wanted to prepare for all contingencies."

Hill said increased sanitation and social distancing methods put in place last year will remain in place this school year.