School districts are adapting to closures
Sam Klomhaus — Enterprise Staff Writer
Monday, March 30, 2020
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Enterprise photos by Nate Howard

Melissa Losett, a paraprofessional at East Side Elementary School, greets parents at Park High School where they pick up homework for their children. 

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Christina Howell prepares homework for Washington School students at one of several tables set up inside Park High School. The bags are delivered outside Park High in a drive-thru fashion.

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Julia Durgan picks up homework for her three children with assistance from Julie Bartz, left, a second-grade teacher at Winans Elementary and Sheryl Corder, on the other side of the car, a food service employee also at Winans Elementary. 

“It’s teamwork, everyone is coming together, and I’m really proud of our school district,” Bartz said.

A mix of teachers, paraeducators, kitchen workers and nurses lined the drop-off area in front of Park High School Monday and, while maintaining social distancing and wearing protective gloves, handed out lessons to parents driving through.

Parents pulled up, gave their students’ names, grade levels and teachers, and received a lesson packet put together by the teachers and district staff.

School districts have switched to distance learning after Gov. Steve Bullock ordered all public schools closed until at least April 10 because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Monday was the first day of distance learning for the Livingston School District.

Packets were available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, and will be available 7:30 a.m.-8:30 a.m., noon-1 p.m. and 5 p.m.-6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. Parents who aren’t able to go to the school at those times can get the packets dropped off at their homes or can call to arrange a time to come by the school.

The materials will be returned next week and exchanged for new lessons.

“Everybody’s been super supportive and thankful they’re getting materials,” said supervising paraeducator Janine Ensign, who was gathering feedback from parents on the district’s response to the closures.

The district employees handing out packets are in very good spirits, Ensign said, but there’s a sense of not knowing how all this is going to work out.

“So far everybody’s been really positive,” Ensign said.

Park High School Co-principal Lynne Scalia said Monday 20 to 25 high school students are using the instructional packets, and the rest of the roughly 430 students are using online learning through Microsoft Teams.

Scalia said the teachers have done an incredible job getting up to speed on how to instruct with technology, but sketchy Internet could be a problem for students.

Gardiner Schools Superintendent Mike Baer said the district had time to plan for an extended closure because the district was on spring break during the first week of the original closure, and planned for distance learning during the second week.

The district is using Google Classroom a lot, Baer said, and, although the lessons are somewhat abbreviated, he was impressed by the attendance in one math lesson he sat through Monday morning.

There are still some physical lessons going out to elementary students, Baer said, and that situation is being monitored.

Baer said his district is prepared for the closure to last until the end of the school year, and is also set up to provide student meals thanks to a grant from the North Yellowstone Education Foundation.

Shields Valley Schools has moved lessons online through Google Classroom for seventh through 12th-graders, and kindergarten through sixth-grade students and seventh through 12th-grade students not set up for online instruction have been getting lessons dropped off by school buses or picked up at Wilsall School, according to the district’s website.

According to a letter from Shields Valley Schools Superintendent Billie Taylor, remote learning started March 24 and will continue through at least April 13, with that timeframe to be evaluated by the school board at its April 8 meeting.

St. Mary’s Catholic School is using a portal called Clever to centralize its online learning during the closure, according to its website.

Arrowhead and Pine Creek Schools could not be reached for comment.