Committee suggests blended option

Alex Mitchell Star Intern
Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Miles City Unified School District Reopening Committee held its second meeting last night with more than 100 participants in the Zoom/in-person meeting.

The committee decided that it will recommend the blended option for it reopening instead of in-person schooling, the other option that they were considering from their last meeting. The blended option gives parents or guardians the choice to have their students opt out of in-person schooling and instead do fully remote learning.

Teachers will also have the option on whether they want to teach remotely and help with the remote classes.

While the blended plan is expected to demand more teachers and more help in the school district, they are still uncertain as to what percentage of physical to remote students they will need to prepare for.

“I think we have come to the conclusion that the blended style works best for the parents and the students,” Miles City Unified School District Superintendent Megan Brown said.

As a result, the school has sent a survey to in-district parents asking whether they will have their student or students return to in-person schooling or stay with remote schooling. This is to better determine what their plans should look like when they meet again Monday at 7 over Zoom and in person.

The school district conducted a similar survey in April and May of this year. With 317 parents responding to the survey, 91% indicated that they would want to see students return to physical schooling in the fall semester.

The survey was conducted before Custer County experienced its first local confirmed case. Custer County now has 43 confirmed cases with seven active cases and cases continuing to rise instead of fall in Montana, which means that circumstances have changed since the last survey, according to Brown.

Once an education method is chosen, students will stay with it to the end of the semester. Remote learning might not be able to offer the variety in learning that would be available in person, but it’s the choice between the two that matters.

“You might not be able to take French remote, but if you need to be home, you need to be home,” Brown said.

Other school districts in Montana have already made their decision on how they will reopen. Billings Public Schools in Yellowstone County decided June 15 to reopen in the fall with the exact plans of that reopening still being formalized.

Bozeman Public Schools in Gallatin County plans to fully reopen in the fall with a blended option. Last week they conducted a survey similar to the one the Miles City School District plans to send out to parents that confronted the same question committee members are facing: How many students will be remote?

The survey for the 7,111-student school district had nearly 4,000 respondents with 85% of parents wanting their students back in school and 15% saying they are uncomfortable with their kids attending school in-person and would choose remote or online learning only.

According to Brown, factors like what other school districts are doing for their reopening policies, feedback from the Public Health Board and their collected feedback and info from their own parent surveys will all help them make the necessary plans and recommendations to the school board when they present them on Aug. 11 for the ultimate decision.

(Contact Alex Mitchell at mcstarintern@gmail.com or 406-234-0450.)

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