Hellgate Elementary School, an independent school district in Missoula, has been operating as close to normal a schedule as possible since September, despite the immense challenge of COVID 19.

Superintendent Doug Reisig said that parents, students and staff have been working together to make the school day experience as normal and productive as possible.

“We’ve been open now for 21 weeks,” said Reisig. “So we started five days a week from the time school started. We had some staggered schedules that we've implemented this year, with start times and exit times and we tried to keep ‘cohorting’ groups of kids together and limit their movement around the campus, and it's worked very well for us. Our kids have just done a fabulous job following all the safety protocols that we've asked them to do. Our staff has done a wonderful job implementing those protocols and, ‘knock on wood’, we've been very fortunate. We've had some cases but no major outbreaks throughout the course of the school year, and we've been able to stay open and our kids have been able to go to school.”

Reisig said some sacrifices have been made, but the basics in education have always been there.

“No, I'm not about to say that it's normal and that the kids are getting as well rounded in education as they would normally get,” he said. “I mean a number of our ancillary programs, such as home economics and shop and music we've had to put on the shelf for the year, but we've concentrated on the math, science, English, social studies, the basic content area subjects, and I think our kids are getting a great quality education.”

Reisig praised his teachers and support staff for their hard work and creativity in the learning process.

“Our teachers have done a fabulous job, making sure that those basic educational tenants are front and center every day,” he said. “We hope that by the next school year we'll be able to put our ancillary classes back in. They are so vital to us on a number of the creative fronts for our kids, but this year, we just couldn't do them.”

Reisig said students are still active in sports and outdoor activities.

“We are continuing to do our sports in line with the Montana High School Association guidelines,” he said. “Some of our sports seasons are a little shorter than what they would normally be, but we're following all those safety protocols, and for the most part, we've been able to offer extra curricular activities for our kids in the sporting areas. Right now we're in the middle of a boy’s basketball season. And as soon as that's done after five weeks, we'll go into a girl’s season.”

Reisig said there are a number of families who have chosen to remotely instruct their children at home, but they are receiving support from the school, as well.


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