Watching the COVID 19 case numbers from the County Health Department carefully, Missoula County Public School Superintendent Rob Watson has determined that the safest way to start the school year is in Phase 1, or the Hybrid method.

“We'll make a recommendation to our school board that we start the school year and the hybrid model,” said Dr. Watson. “Our first day of school is on August 26 and the hybrid model is really described as some in-person learning and some remote learning for all students, so students could expect to be in school approximately two days a week and then doing remote learning the remaining three days of the week.”

Naturally, Watson said with children home in remote learning some days of the week, the issue of child care has to be addressed.

“We've been working very closely with some community partners around child care, specifically the United Way has stepped up to try to help coordinate some of this stuff among the various partners,” he said. “I was on a call last Friday with several community partners that are interested in helping out as much as they can for those off days. We also put a survey out to our parents and I think at the elementary level K-five, approximately 30% of our parents noted that they would need support on those opposite days when their kids aren't in school.”

Watson said with children learning both at school and at home, teachers will create their lesson plans with those circumstances in mind.

“As a former classroom teacher myself, I think probably the one piece that that is important that they start to think about is which of my lessons need to be done in person,” he said. “Which ones are really critical that they're done in person versus which ones are the lessons could kids do remotely if I put the lesson online and they can access it online, that is, which ones could be done remotely versus in person.”

Watson said the COVID numbers for Missoula will dictate which model the school district will use, Phase Zero (100 percent remote learning), Phase 1 (the hybrid model) and Phase 2 ( all in-classroom learning).

“It's a concern but yet we're much slower than other parts of the state on some of the other large communities in terms of total number of cases and active cases,” he said.  “So she's concerned, but at the same time she's optimistic that it might be just a blip on the radar, not necessarily a huge spike. So we're going to have to watch that carefully over the next four to six weeks and see if that continues to rise.”

Seeley Swan High School will begin the school year in Phase 2, all in-classroom learning, but in a modified schedule.

Once again, the first day of school is scheduled for August 26.