The first full week of Missoula public school is in the books and to say it has been different from other first weeks is a definite understatement.

MCPS Superintendent Rob Watson was on the KGVO Talk Back show on Wednesday, and gave an optimistic report.

“It’s been going really well,” began Dr. Watson. “The teachers are really excited from what I've seen to have the kids back in the school in my observations and walking around to the various classrooms, the kids are really anxious but they're excited to be back in class and kind of a regular routine. That's what I've noticed.”

Watson acknowledged that with COVID 19 and the last three months of school being cancelled and replaced with remote learning that students and teachers are off to a necessarily slow start this fall.

As we started the school year, we knew that we were going to have to start slow because kids have been out of school for about five or five and a half months.

“As we started the school year, we knew that we were going to have to start slow because kids have been out of school for about five or five and a half months,” he said. “What I’ve noticed as I'm going in is a slow start; talking about procedures and protocols and material instruction that are happening, but it’s happening at a slower pace than what you might expect. I would anticipate if I asked a parent or a student they would say, well, things are starting pretty slow but they're thankful to be back in school.”

Watson said the big difference in this new school year is the mandatory masking ordinance in all classes from kindergarten through twelfth grade.

“First and foremost is face coverings for all students and staff,” he said. “That's pretty much mandatory throughout the school day. There are a few times during the day where a teacher might take a class outside for what we call a ‘mask break’ where they would take their masks off. They would stay six feet apart, maybe do a walk around the playground or something like that just to get a break from their masks, but for the most part, face coverings is what you'll see in all of our buildings and all of our classrooms.”

Watson said there are new policies being introduced to keep students safe from exposure to COVID 19.

“What we're trying to do is limit the interactions with different adults as well,” he said. “So rather than going to a PE twice a day or going to PE twice a week, the PE teacher is coming into the classroom and is sort of assigned to that that group of kids for a longer period of time, and then the next week it might be the music teacher that's assigned to that group of kids. So they're still getting things like PE music and library, it's just done a little differently.”

Watson said he is in contact with the Missoula City County Health Department weekly for the new exposure numbers.

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