GFPS responds swiftly to global pandemic

Taylor Willmarth, Staff Writer

“No school until further notice.” An exciting headline for some students— a nightmare for education, medicine, and essential services. 

Montana Governor Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency and closed public K-12 schools on March 16. Schools will remain closed through June 5.

The decision to close schools was in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. However, each day away from school counts for hours of progress that will not be made this year. Elementary students will rely on their teachers to catch them up next year. Older students will be forced to make up for lost opportunities on their own. 

The general response of Great Falls Public Schools to this pandemic has kept student and family health as the top priority.

“Please know that our District is working with public health officials and community leaders to update our protocols on pandemic illness and ensure that we are prepared in the event that COVID-19 becomes active in our community,” the district stated in a letter sent to all parents and guardians.

The district has also outlined plans to keep students learning at home. Activities specific to grade level and prior education are available to each student online. For students who don’t have access to the Internet in their home, GFPS has provided physical materials at no cost. Teachers and school district staff maintain contact with their students through e-mail, phone calls, and video conferencing software such as Zoom and Skype. 

While teachers continue to provide an education from home, families face a new challenge in finding care for their children during the day. School provides a safe place for children to learn, eat, and interact. Parents who work jobs in essential services can’t afford to stay home and care for their children.

GFPS and HANDS have provided emergency child care for families who meet the guidelines. Healthcare workers, first responders, and grocery store staff are allowed to utilize this emergency care. 

Leniency on the part of the teachers, constant effort on behalf of the students, and cooperation from the public will be the most effective way to stay productive during this closure.