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East Helena School District extends remote learning through end of school year

Posted at 7:02 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 21:02:00-04

EAST HELENA — The East Helena School District has decided to continue with remote instruction through the end of the school year.

The district board of trustees voted Tuesday evening to follow Superintendent Ron Whitmoyer’s recommendation that in-person classes not resume this year.

Whitmoyer said this was the best decision for the safety of students and staff, but that it was disappointing to have to take this step.

“This is not the way it was meant to be,” he said.

Whitmoyer said the district surveyed parents on whether they wanted students to return to in-person classes.

“We have a majority of our parents that are very, very fearful of what the consequences would be of us opening school up to business as usual,” he said.

East Helena was one of the last school districts in Lewis and Clark County to vote on whether to stay with remote learning for the remaining weeks of class. Whitmoyer said leaders wanted to wait to see if Gov. Steve Bullock would make any changes to the guidelines for school districts. They were particularly concerned with whether the state would move into Phase 2 of Bullock’s reopening plan – allowing groups of up to 50 people, instead of only 10.

“Less than 10 is obviously less than half of a class of students, so we’re in a very precarious situation,” said Whitmoyer.

The board’s decision does allow flexibility for some small groups of students to return to school buildings a few hours a week – particularly special education students and those with other additional needs. Whitmoyer said they are also looking at ways to let students back into schools to collect their belongings.

The Montana City School District board of trustees also voted Tuesday to extend remote learning through the end of the school year. Other local districts, including Helena, Townsend, Lincoln and Augusta had already said they would not return to in-person classes this year.