MISSOULA — Missoula County Public Schools administrators and the district's COVID Task Force are using a combination of data determining how to adjust class schedules heading into the heart of winter.
That gives the district some "school specific" info to make decisions, as Dennis Bragg explains.
While Missoula County Public Health tracks figures such as "incident rate" and "test positivity", MCPS is using a matrix of indicators in addition to those community numbers.
“But then beyond that, there's school data. How the, potentially, how the virus is transmitted or not transmitted in schools, the number of active cases we have in our schools. Is it going up? Is it going down? Is it staying the same?" said MCPS Superintendent Rob Watson.
Watson explains that allows the schools to compare COVID spread in the community, as well as in class.
There's lots of different school data, and now that we're several months into the school year, we have quite a bit of data that we can look at from the school side, which helps add just another element to the decisions," said Watson.
While some individual programs have had to switch to remote learning, for the most part, Watson said the school-based case rates have remained within parameters.
“Those are good signs that hopefully we're not contributing to the issue. But I would say too that as the number of cases in the community grows, you know a pretty steady rate now, then we're seeing more and more cases in our schools, and that just goes to show you that we are part of this community and what happens in the community is going to impact us in the schools as well," said Watson.
Watson told MTN News that staffing continues to be a challenge as well, especially in the K-5 grades, with teachers having to be quarantined.
“They outpaced our students in the last two weeks. So when a staff member contracts COVID, they could also be close contacts with other staff members in the school and those staff members have to quarantine. So that's really where we're noticing, our pinch points is in K-5," said Watson.
MCPS is looking at keeping high schools, and possibly the younger grades, in the hybrid model, with in class and remote learning through the holidays. The school board will consider that plan Thursday night.
The district also continues to look for substitute teachers who can help cover some of the staffing shortages.