HELENA — The Helena School District Board of Trustees has approved a “remote services action plan,” outlining their activities while school buildings remain closed as a precaution against the coronavirus.
On Friday, the board voted unanimously to forward the plan to Gov. Steve Bullock’s office, during a video-conference meeting. Bullock has directed that school districts will continue receiving full funding if they submit an action plan, approved by trustees, to the state.
Helena Public Schools’ plan lays out the structure for the district’s online instruction, school meal delivery, special education and other services.
The school board also approved temporary policies to help them respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. One allows the use of transportation funding – usually directed toward busing students – for other services like delivering food and instructional materials in school buses.
While the state gave districts two weeks to prepare their action plans, Helena school leaders say theirs was mostly in operation after three days. Superintendent Tyler Ream said about 6,500 educators and students have been regularly using their online platform. He said the district has checked out about 2,000 devices to help families get online.
Friday was the last day of the district’s third quarter. Spring Break will follow next week, and classes will resume April 6.
Ream said, so far, much of the remote work classes have done has been reviewing concepts, as they usually do at the end of a quarter. He said they will now have new challenges as teachers begin introducing new material.
“If we had a choice, we would not choose, obviously, an entirely remote services environment, just because of the benefits that occur when you’re in a classroom for seven and a half hours every single day,” he said. “Yet that’s our reality, and I don’t think we’re at a place – nor should we be at a place – where we say that no new learning will occur.”
Trustees thanked Ream and the rest of the district staff for their work on the action plan.
“I think it is incredible to see how resilient and how quickly adaptable our district has been,” said trustee Sarah Sullivan. “For the most part, I feel really comfortable with how we’re delivering this probably final quarter of school.”
“To see a paradigm shift in the way we deliver education, almost overnight, it’s really impressive,” said trustee Libby Goldes.
You can find a link to the full action plan here.