Montana’s large, urban school districts are not the only ones having to decide whether to continue remote learning, as the state loosens some of the restrictions put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. Two of the smallest districts in Lewis and Clark County have also said they won’t return to in-person classes this school year.
The Trinity School District, in Canyon Creek, has 19 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. The Wolf Creek School District has 14 K-5 students. Last week, both districts’ school boards voted to extend distance learning through the end of the year.
Lewis and Clark County Superintendent of Schools Katrina Chaney administers those rural districts. She said they looked at the possibility of coming back for in-person classes, but concluded it would have been too difficult for their small staffs to make all the changes needed.
Chaney said they talked to families in both school districts and found many wanted to return to class – but a significant number of them were not willing to send their students back to school buildings. That meant the districts would have had to continue remote learning alongside in-person teaching.
“With six grades at each school, that was going to be a lot of work, for teachers to be there with in-class instruction, as well as out-of-school instruction,” Chaney said.
Trinity and Wolf Creek are also set to finish their school years by the end of May, so there would only have been three weeks of classroom teaching remaining.
“It wasn’t feasible to put all that daily work into it for three weeks,” said Chaney.
Chaney said one benefit of a smaller district has been that teachers have had more time to spend with each individual student during the remote learning process. However, she said they will be watching the state’s guidelines closely, to see whether they can take steps to go back to school buildings next year.
“We definitely hope to be back in the fall,” she said.
The Helena, Lincoln and Augusta School Districts have all decided to continue remote learning through the end of the year. The East Helena School District is set to make its decision Tuesday night.