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Whitefish School District adopts hybrid back-to-school model, requires face masks

Posted at 9:13 PM, Aug 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 15:23:08-04

WHITEFISH — The Whitefish Public School Board held its monthly meeting on Tuesday to discuss its plan for returning to school in the fall.

Here is a rundown on some of the guidelines put in place once school is back in session:

  • The Whitefish School District asks teachers and families to do a health screen on themselves before they arrive on campus.
  • The district asks that if a student or teacher's temperature is above 100 degrees for the past three days or if a person has any symptoms of illness like coughing, headache, sore throat, runny nose, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest of nasal congestion, earache swollen glands, or if they've been asked to quarantine they must stay home and seek health care guidance.
  • The school district says that when students and staff arrive on site, nurses will check student's temperatures as they enter the building. A student's temperature must be below 100 degrees in order to remain in school. Whitefish Schools Superintendent Dave Means says that students will not be screened when they first get on the bus. Means says the decision was made after consulting with CDC guidelines. The concern is, that if a parent drops their child off at a bus stop, leaves and then the child tests positive for coronavirus, coordinating to find the parents and get the child back would be tricky. Students will be asked to wear masks on the bus as well as remain in assigned seats. Assigned seats are required in case contact tracing needs to be done.
  • The district is taking a hybrid approach to in-person and remote learning for the month of September. The second week of school will begin with half of the students in the district in person while the other half will be remote. The hope is that everyone by the end of the term will have experienced in-person learning delivery and remote learning. Towards the end of September, Wednesdays will be provided for students to have access to their teachers if they have questions and for teachers if a student needs more attention. Wednesday will also be used to deep clean the schools. The hope is that if everything goes well, after September students will go more towards in-person learning.
  • The district is requiring masks inside the building for staff and students. Masks will be required to be worn outside if social distancing can't take place. Social distancing must take place whenever possible. If a student or staff member can't wear a mask on campus, the student will be asked to do remote learning. They will not be allowed to participate in in-person learning. Staff will be encouraged to teach classes outside when weather permits. This allows students and teachers a brief mask break if they are socially distancing.
  • Staff and students will be hand washing frequently. If soap and water aren't available, hand sanitizers will be provided.
  • Classrooms, equipment and high-touch areas will be frequently cleaned.
  • The district is finding places to reduce congestion around the building such as where people tend to congregate and pass time.
  • Whitefish School District also mentioned that staff and students will be educated how to properly wear masks to they don't tough or fidget with the masks.

Means says students have been off campus for almost six months and once the schools reopen, they want to stay open.

The district must remain flexible as numbers continue to fluctuate and state guidelines change. That could mean going more remote or less.

A Whitefish district COVID-19 task force has been meeting since the beginning of the virus. The task force is made up of people like school nurses, district administrations, supervisors and building principals. The task force has put together a plan to safely return to school with guidance from the CDC, governor phase plans, Flathead City-County Health, school board and remote learning survey input from families and students.

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