MISSOULA — Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS) high school students got the opportunity to see many of their classmates for the first time in nearly a year on Tuesday as MCPS moves into its Phase 2 schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The change means all students are back four days a week. So, MTN News talked with two of those students about their thoughts on the return to class. All MCPS high school students were welcomed back and that means doubling the capacity to begin the second semester.
There was excitement for the first day back.
“It just feels like the first day of school, like it was just summer and now we’re starting back, you know being able to see your friends. It’s kind of exciting,” Sentinel High School senior Chase Lockwood said.
“It’s fun to see other people’s faces that you haven’t seen in about a year,” added Sentinel High School junior Gracie Hietala.
The day was mixed with a bit of anxiety.
“It’s definitely a lot more difficult to keep distance, I definitely forgot how many kids, like, go to the school when everybody’s here. In the hall, it’s definitely more difficult when kids are walking around,” Lockwood said.”
“Getting to classes with, you know, thirty people, it’s kind of hard to social distance so we’re trying our best,” added Hietala.
Heading into Phase Two, that has been the focus of the most concern among teachers, staff, and administrators -- how to keep the suggested three-foot distance among students.
Hietala told MTN News that there are noticeable safety protocols in place.
“We have one staircase that goes up and two that go down, that way we’re not…we’re a little more spread out, and teachers are out in the hallways.”
Sentinel High students started their day with a presentation on best safety practices, and the students we spoke with to say they feel both staff and students are doing their best to follow those practices.
Hietala believes that, as long as everyone continues to follow protocols, brighter days are ahead.
“If everything goes as planned, I think we could go back to school for the rest of the year, and maybe have some ore extra-curricular activities, like assemblies and maybe prom.”
Students who aren't comfortable with being back in school still have the option of joining classes online.