2020-2021 Planning Update – 9.4.2020

books and an apple

September 4, 2020

As our Rolling Start week comes to an end, we are thankful for the tremendous efforts that contributed to our opening. While different from any other school year in recent memory, our transitional opening allowed us the time needed to prepare and physically welcome our students and families back to school for the first time in six months. While the challenges are numerous, the opportunity to see our learners reenter their schools has been a true highlight for our educators and community. Next week begins our official start to the Phase I schedule of designated A and B days for your students. As a reminder, this is our only developed model that provides the opportunity to physically distance a classroom. Unlike school as normal, students will be seated apart from one another and distanced even in classrooms that typically involve quite a bit of active, hands-on learning. As a school district, we will continue to evaluate the effectiveness of this model as we simultaneously consider next steps.

In early August, we designated Phase I as our opening phase. That decision was made some four weeks ago as our county was coming off of our most challenging COVID-19 related week to date with no understanding as to whether or not our local cases were rising or peaking. At that time, we set numerical targets for where we wanted to see our local health indicators trend as we approached early September. As you will note in the below graphic, nearly all of these indicators have trended in a positive direction over the past four weeks. These trends provide cautious optimism but rightfully so, we are continually reminded that cases today are dependent upon exposure up to two weeks ago. We are thankful to our Helena and Lewis & Clark communities for their collective actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in recent weeks as these actions are literally opening doors for our children.

Monitored COVID-19 Indicators (click for a larger image)

covid-19 indicators 9-4-2020

As we evaluate next steps, a commonly posed question is, “when will we enter Phase II as a school district?” We are working with health professional to better understand how to utilize the above metrics to make phasing decisions. In doing this, we are utilizing several national resources designed to inform these decisions. As these metrics are finalized, we will work to share them as we discuss how we will work to make phase-by-phase decisions across the 2020/2021 school year.

Below are a few ongoing Back to School reminders for the coming weeks:

  • Morning Symptom Checking: Please remember to include daily symptom checking as part of your morning routine prior to attending school. Schools have provided a symptom checking suggestion for each family. Please remember that anyone with symptoms should not attend school in person. For more information, please see our Advice from our School Nurses page.
  • Masks Required: All students, employees, and visitors must wear a mask properly at all times unless the student or staff member has a medical contraindication for wearing a mask verified by a medical provider (MD, DO, NP, PA only).
  • Modified AA/BB Week (9/8 – 9/11): Please remember that, due to the Labor Day Holiday, the schedule for this coming week has been modified with “A Day” students attending on Tuesday (9/8) and Wednesday (9/9) and “B Day” students attending Thursday (9/10) and Friday (9/11). We will return to the normal A Day (Monday & Tuesday), B Day (Thursday & Friday) schedule for the following week (9/14 – 9/18) with Wednesdays remaining a remote learning day for our students.
  • Family Tech Tips Web page: For information related to technology associated with the Helena Public Schools, please see our Remote Learning page including our Parent Technology Tips resources.