Montana is leading the country in reopening schools.
That's what Republican Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said on a visit to Billings on Friday.
The governor and state schools Superintendent Elsie Arntzen received a welcome at Elder Grove School, where he read "The Cat In The Hat" to first graders.
"It was just a delightful experience," Gianforte said.
The governor and the superintendent heard from parents, teachers and administrators at the Lincoln Center.
"It was interesting to hear the amount of work that went into making decisions about how to open schools," Gianforte said. "Whether we should go with a hybrid or full-time or completely remote. And in the end, I think they made the right decision to have kids back in the classroom learning, because the kids benefited and the families benefited."
"We know that remote world has not probably been the best world for some of our students," Arntzen said. "And having more of a normal implementation of education, with a classroom teacher in front of you is the best way to go."
And they say nearly all Montana public schools have gone back to in-person classes.
"They make courageous decisions this year to keep the schools open so that parents could continue to work, students could continue to learn," Gianforte said.
"It is about the union, it's about teachers, it's about families, and it's about the administration and the community," Arntzen said. "But more importantly the focus is on students. Move them forward, so they can stay in Montana, so that we can reopen our economy, not just this year but for many many years to come."
Before flying to Billings, the governor was in Great Falls to sign the Tomorrow's Educators Are Coming Home or TEACH Act, which provides $2.5 million in incentives to improve teachers' starting pay.