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School administrators warning even fall classes could be impacted by COVID-19

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Posted at 8:55 AM, Apr 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 16:18:59-04

MISSOULA — While most of us are focused on whether our children will be getting back to class at all in the coming weeks, school administrators here in Western Montana are also discussing how the coronavirus could still impact operations next fall.

Local school districts are trying to solve a host of problems right now when considering whether to re-open class before summer. And it's not just social-distancing. It's also supplies. In Stevensville, the district has just four-ounces of concentrated disinfectant.

"We have the people on staff who are very hard working and willing to help and assist and clean. It's just the on-going need to maintain a healthy and safe environment is daunting at best," Stevensville Schools Superintendent Bob Moore said.

That's just one of dozens of considerations as administrators and teachers are redesigning graduation in a few weeks.

"I think we're starting to embrace the difference that those kinds of events, like graduation, even community events that we have in our community here in Ravalli County is going to look different, feel different," Corvallis Schools Superintendent Tim Johnson told MTN News.

There's also an expectation summer school offerings will be in more demand, helping students catch up where distance learning has been a challenge.

"Some people have different learning styles, and so if this didn't really align with their learning style they're going to need some extra time and some extra help," Moore said.

Additionally, don't expect school to return to normal in the fall. Social distancing, altered class sizes and formats, and expanded cleaning appear likely.

"We know that the fall will likely look different than the traditional fall opening of school," Johnson said. "So, that's something that we will see there as summer unfolds and everything else over the summer as far as planning goes, what that's going to turn into. Just to plant that seed that we can expect the fall to be a little bit different as well."

"I think we're going to consider all of those options. And then looking forward into the fall what does this look like?" Moore added. "And how do we develop a protocol and a plan moving forward, you know, beyond just this school year. And it really makes us examine what we do, safety protocol-wise altogether."

Florence Carlton, Hamilton, Darby, Victor and Stevensville have all said it would be impossible to re-open schools with the provisions for social distancing, and the remaining time left to solve that and other problems in the few weeks remaining before summer.

The Corvallis School Board and Lone Rock School will consider whether to join the list Tuesday night.