GREAT FALLS — Great Falls Public Schools will resume in-class learning on Tuesday, January 18, 2022, after a week-long closure due to staff illness and a surge in COVID infections.
GFPS superintendent Tom Moore said in a Facebook video on Sunday evening that classes will resume on Tuesday, and said that masks are encouraged, but not required.
Moore also said that due to the increased need for substitute teachers, GFPS is adding $25 per day for substitute teachers.
Non-certified substitutes will now be paid up to $115 a day, and certified substitutes will be paid $125 per day.
While Great Falls is familiar with remote learning, some parents concerned about it. Several of them told MTN News that remote learning has its challenges, but they are making the most of it at their homes and getting through it week-by-week.
One parent said this regarding her son: “He actually likes the remote learning part of it. The likelihood of him having to do a presentation in front of the class is obsolete. And I’m super appreciative of the teachers who’ve had to change up how they teach completely between last year with a good portion of the school year being remote as well as the quick notification that they were going remote this last week. So, I really do appreciate their hard work and trying to make this work for all the students. I know that they do care about their students and it’s not easy for anybody.”
Parents know that plans like this can change at a moment’s notice. Remote learning has taught students and parents alike to be adjustable.
Staci Griffin is a parent of two students at Great Falls High School and wants her kids to get the most out of high school but understands that remote learning could happen at any point.
“I’m grateful that they’re independent workers and they’re good students. They don’t struggle so that makes it easier for us. I think they prepare them for it daily that this could potentially be a thing at the drop of a hat just like it did last week,” Griffin said. “I would rather have them in the classroom obviously especially with it being my son’s senior year. I don’t want him to miss out on all those activities and things. It’s not ideal but it’s better than nothing and I hope that if they have to continue to do it, it’s short-lived.”
(FRIDAY, JANUARY 14, 2022) Great Falls Public Schools have been closed since Tuesday, January 11, with all classes being conducted remotely. The decision was made due to a shortage of staff due to illness, and an increase in the number of COVID-infected students.
GFPS said on Monday, January 10: "GFPS has more than 125 staff out due to COVID-related illness. The GFPS substitute fill rate was below 46%, which meant that there were roughly 54 classrooms without substitutes across the district."
When the decision to go remote was made on Monday, GFPS said that in-person classes would resume on Tuesday, January 18 - but that may change.
GFPS said in a news release on Friday, January 14, that administrators have been monitoring the spread of COVID throughout the week. On Friday morning, they reviewed data regarding the current number of COVID-infected students and staff, which is more than 250 infections.
GFPS says that is the highest number of infections they have experienced since COVID hit the community in the winter of 2020:
As a School District, we are once again faced with making decisions based on the best available data we have at the time. The District Leadership appreciates the adaptability and flexibility of our staff, students, parents and community partners. Currently, we are analyzing the infection and isolation rates of our staff to determine whether we will have adequate staffing to reopen schools safely on Tuesday, January 18th. Due to the ever-changing dynamics of this current COVID-19 Variant, it is apparent that we need to wait until Sunday afternoon, when we will look at the updated employee data to make an informed decision about school reopening.
GFPS will host a Facebook Live on Sunday, January 16, at 5 p.m. to update the community on the status of school closures for the upcoming week, and will release more details shortly after.
Check the GFPS website and the GFPS Facebook page for updates and information on rapid test clinics and vaccine clinics. Students, with parent consent, and staff can access rapid tests at most schools and at the community drive-through testing center at the Montana ExpoPark fairgrounds.