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Parents voice concerns over decisions to send kids back to school in Western MT

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Posted at 8:13 AM, Jul 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-28 10:13:06-04

MISSOULA — Some parents are fully comfortable sending their children back to the classroom this fall.

Others are not -- and others still, are looking for more information before making that decision on how to balance about their family’s health and their child's education in a pandemic.

We know there’s not a "one size fits all solution" for each school district as each is unique.

So this summer, it’s the parents doing the homework and collaborating with school administrators to decide how best to return to classroom learning.

When COVID-19 first closed down schools last Spring, Jilayne Dunn briefly considered homeschooling her two daughters.

She appreciates how Missoula County Public Schools (MCPS) leadership is asking for input on how to structure this new school year so she and other parents can use science and strategy to make important decisions for their children.

You know, they’ve offered a lot of opportunity for public feedback and I think that’s really important," Dunn said. "It helps them, it helps our school board members to really consider each situation and try to address as many of those as they can.“

Seven-year-old Mylee is getting ready for second grade in Saint Ignatius but isn’t sure and her mother Staci Udall wonders about the structure of her child’s school day.

“I’m worried about them being stuck in classrooms for long periods of time instead of getting recesses or going to the lunchroom. I’m more worried about them getting bored," Staci told MTN News.

"I want to go back to school but I kind of don’t want to wear a mask all day at school and I do want to go outside and play sometimes," Mylee said.

National surveys show parents are seeking alternatives to classroom learning, from homeschooling, tutoring or micro-schooling for their kids. Some might not make the ‘back to school’ decision until the last minute.

"I think most people would agree that being in the classroom and that type of learning is the best environment," Dunn said. "But when it comes down to it, you balance that against the risk of life.

School Hallway
As the number of COVID-19 cases rises in Montana parents are faced with a tough decision. should they send their children back to school?

"Kids are really eager to get back to school. I am one of them. But I want to be safe. I want to keep not only myself safe and my family but also my friends and the people around me," seventh grade student River Lee explained. "We need to be disciplined and more mature about all of this.

School districts in the state are reaching out to parents about their reopening plans.

Late last week, MCPS released the draft plan for back to school and it's on Tuesday’s school board agenda that will no doubt engage more parents in the conversation. But until we can pencil in our fall schedules, it’s at least good to know COVID-19 can’t take everything away.

"We have done some school shopping online for backpacks because part of that you just need to do. There is hope there. I think hope is giving us hope and giving kids in particular hope is important," Dunn said.

So right now, it’s the parents turn to do the homework:

  • If you’re concerned about your child’s health when going back to school, have a talk with their doctor.
  • Get engaged with your school board and superintendent and give them some feedback and ask questions and find out when they need to know if you plan on remote learning or classroom attendance.
  • Talk to your children about what they’re thinking and feeling about this and what role they can play in their education and their personal health.
  • Visit the MCPS website or the University of Montana website for more information.
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