NewsMissoula County


MCPS still managing COVID, but turning attention to broader issue of "wellness"

Posted at 6:47 PM, Aug 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-31 10:24:22-04

MISSOULA - While Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS) are still using COVID-19 measures this year, the focus is shifting to the well-being of teachers, students, and staff.

When school opened two years ago, the conversation was all about masks and social distancing. Now, MCPS administrators are more confident, given the additional virus research, and the district's extensive data on classroom COVID trends.

"Well, we've been pretty good the last two years about doing the detail work with COVID and tracking our data and trying to predict what might be coming our way," MCPS Superintendent Russ Lodge told MTN News.

"Still part of the mix. We're really trying to follow CDC guidelines and they've changed a bit so we've got ourselves clued and tapped into whatever they are leading us. Of course, the masking is optional, is recommended still, but certainly not a requirement," Lodge continued. "So things have lessened a little bit in some of our requirements and protocols. But it's still a COVID still part of us. Probably going to remain part of us."

But Lodge says beyond dealing with the remnants of the pandemic the district is going to take a different approach, focusing on wellness this year, for students, teachers, and staff.

"I think the message now has been transferred over to the Wellness and self-care 'cause, we've realized that there's just been a lot of stress. And how do you manage that stress and how do you teach kids. We've been asking people to do a lot of things. That wasn't the usual, you know, back five years ago, three years ago."

That first step started with a massive training session over Zoom with 1300 staff last week and will continue with professional development and outreach throughout the year.

"We can't get to the academic until a relationship is solid," Lodge emphasized. "And we want the relationship to be good and what kids feel comfortable and safe. Parents to know their kids are comfortable and safe. If that gets established, and that's firm and kids believe it, and teachers are feeling good about themselves, academics will take care of itself."

"We really went out to create a professional development platform that's going to allow everybody to be able to, if they need it, to tap into some strategies that will help them through difficult emotional times if it happens. So we feel pretty positive about that. I think we're headed in the right direction."

The district will continue to offer COVID-19 testing this year. More information is available on the MCPS website.

Watch the full MTN News back-to-school special below.

MTN News Back to School Special