Beaverhead County High School to continue online learning through school year

Wednesday, May 6, 2020
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Two BCHS senior were all dressed up with nowhere to go Friday night during the graduation “Cruisin’ out of Seclusion” event. J.P. Plutt photo

Though schools statewide will be allowed to open for in-person instruction with restrictions on May 7, many area districts plan to continue teaching from a distance.

Beaverhead County High School’s board decided April 29 to continue holding school online for the rest of the year.

Gov. Steve Bullock decided to allow local school boards to determine how best to deliver instruction for the rest of the current school year in his statewide reopening plan. Beaverhead City-County Public Health Board members agreed, approving a strong recommendation for county school districts to keep schools closed. Bullock ordered schools closed to in-classroom instruction in March, to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.

Though districts can reopen their doors, they would need to comply with strict physical distancing, cleaning and disinfection protocols set out in statewide and local public health guidelines.

BCHS Superintendent and Principal Gary Haverfield told the school board in a videoconferenced special meeting that administrators and staff did not believe it was a good idea to change course now, with so little time left in the school year. It would have also been difficult to be able to provide all the required cleaning and disinfecting for in-person instruction, and get all the supplies necessary.

“We can’t meet the social distancing guidelines, and we absolutely can’t meet the sanitizing guidelines, and don’t have the time to put together some type of blended program with 15 days of school left after May 7. It seems like everyone else is doing the same, for similar reasons,” Haverfield said. “I don’t think we’re done with this – we may very well be dealing with this in the fall.”

District staff will spend time over the summer deciding how best to educate students for next school year, as the pandemic may still be a concern, he added.

The board also approved a number of items related to the continued online instruction, such as extending the declaration of an unforeseen emergency, and policies to allow for distance learning, meetings and events considered essential to district operations, maximum size of gatherings and other matters. The approvals ensure the district will continue to be able to pay staff and conduct operations for the rest of the fiscal year.

The board did not determine how to hold this year’s graduation ceremony, though Haverfield said it would be discussed at the May 11 board meeting.