After announcing that churches, then stores, bars, taverns and restaurants would be allowed to open over a two week period, Governor Bullock then lifted the order to close the state’s schools as of May 7.

MCPS Superintendent Rob Watson said he has received some advance notice of the announcement, but still was working through the procedures and decisions regarding reopening Missoula’s public schools.

“Knowing the possibly he was heading in this direction we set up a couple of meetings with our trustees,” said Watson. “We have one on April 28th, which is next Tuesday, when we’ll discuss some of the considerations that would go into  making that sort of decision, and then on May 5th which is just a week later we’ll ask the trustees to make a decision on when the appropriate time will be to reopen.”

Watson said one of the deciding factors will be the status of those students who would come back to school as ‘medically vulnerable’ to the COVID 19 virus.

“We’re got about 14 percent of our students that we know of that are medically vulnerable,” he said. “That ranges from asthma to diabetes to any one of those categories that the CDC has classified as medically vulnerable. Just in our district alone that’s over 1,200 students that is recommended that they shouldn’t return to school, definitely in these early phases of reopening.”

Watson said the subject of high school graduation still faces many obstacles, even in the phased reopening.

“It looks like in phase two those crowd size restrictions from up fro 10 to 50, and so knowing that there’s going to be a crowd size restriction of 50 or less, how do we plan a graduation or multiple graduations with that few number of students, and those are some of the things we’re going to have to work on. I know for sure that it’s not going to look like it has in previous years based on some of the restrictions that appear to be in place, but we’ll work through some plans and try to come up with a great way to honor our kids.”

Watson wanted to assure the public, especially parents of school children and those who are graduating, that their comments and opinions would be taken seriously.

“We have set up a public comment email and it is ‘publiccomment@mcps.k12.mt.us,” he said. “It would be so helpful to us if we could get that word out so that we can collect all those comments in one place and it’s not going to six different people in the school district.”