Great Falls teachers who are also parents react to plan to reopen schools

Posted at 10:03 AM, Aug 15, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-15 12:03:54-04

With public schools set to reopen in Great Falls on August 26, the next two weeks will no doubt be packed with planning, organizing, and, of course, cleaning.

Rachel Bohannon and Dawn O’Leary fall into two of the most-affected categories of people as we inch closer to going back to school. They’re both teachers at Great Falls High School and parents of students in the district. Their perspective is a unique one, and they’re relatively satisfied with the plan that the district has rolled out.

“This is interesting times we live in, and I think that we have nothing to base anything on,” said Bohannon, a mother of five. “There’s never been this experience before in our lifetime, and I think our school district has worked so, so hard to come up with a plan that hopefully will work, and I appreciate that they’ve put so much effort into trying to figure out something, as both a teacher and a parent, that will allow kids to have school and maybe some sort of normal back in their lives.”

Both teachers like the way the district has split online learning and in-person instruction into two separate entities. They like that it gives parents and students the option to choose their educational path for the school year, without putting too much strain on the teachers.

“I like the idea of being in-person or remote, a hybridized version would be extremely challenging and I don’t think that, as a teacher, I could deliver the best instruction having to be two different teachers at once,” O’Leary explained. “I’m pretty excited that our district has worked hard to create a situation where we can have remote teachers and in-person teachers and that we can all focus on what can be the best instruction for those students.”

Despite the positives that both teachers took from the plan, they admitted that they understand the potential concerns of other parents and teachers, and have concerns themselves. Health is the most important thing to them and their families, and the district has said that they echo that sentiment.

Rachel said that her and her kids health is a concern of hers, as is the health of any other friends and family members that they may come into contact with after being in school. Governor Steve Bullock’s August 12 directive made face coverings mandatory in all K-12 schools in counties with four or more active COVID-19 cases, which does include Cascade County. Despite that, Rachel is cautiously optimistic about how well kids in all grades do at wearing their masks.

“I think that my concern is that kids will take things seriously and wear their masks and do what we ask them to,” she explained. “We’ve set up all these different safety protocols and I really need our high school Bison at Great Falls High to take it serious and to do what we need to do to stay safe, whatever those precautions are, whether they agree with them, whether they don’t agree with them, that we have to be a Bison family and keep each other safe.”

Overall, Rachel and Dawn are both happy to be returning to in-person instruction. They both say they’ve missed their kids, and teaching remotely just isn’t the same. They also added that they have faith in the school district to keep its students, teachers and their families safe as schools return to session in these unprecedented times.

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