HELENA — On Wednesday, the Helena School District sent a letter to parents discussing COVID-19 protocols that will be in effect for the new school year.
Effective Aug. 30, masks will be required for all PreK-8 students and staff. Masks are highly recommended, but not mandatory, for grades 9-12.
“After consultation with local public health officials – and given that Lewis & Clark County’s transmission rate remains at the ‘high’ level – I have made the decision to require masks for PreK-8,” wrote Helena Public Schools Superintendent Rex Weltz in a letter to parents.
Earlier this month, the school board reached a decision of 7 to 1 to adopt a masking policy for Pre-K to 8th-grade students during a high transmission period, but gave high school students some flexibility due to them having access to the vaccine.
Weltz said the masking decision is to help keep students in school, rather than reverting to distance learning.
The school district is planning to host on-campus vaccination clinics at outdoor sports events for those who would like to participate. Minors need guardian consent to receive a vaccine.
Helena School will be providing remoting learning opportunities through a third party this year.
The online learning provider for grades K-12 is Edgenuity. Grades 9-12 will also use the Montana Digital Academy. Both Edgenuity and Montana Digital Academy teachers are certified by the State of Montana.
Weltz wrote: “In order to return students to the classroom full-time, we’ve returned our district teachers to the classroom full-time. To continue to provide an online learning alternative, the district has entered a partnership with third-party providers.”
Parents interested in participating in the Online Learning Program should contact their child’s school administrators for assistance with the application process.
Helena Public Schools are aggressively looking to fill vacant bus driver positions.
On Monday MTN reported the school district was still 20 bus drivers short of reaching their 72 drive goal.
District leaders said they’ve been looking at ways to deal with the gap for weeks. First Student has brought in temporary employees to cover some routes and the district has worked on a plan to combine some of their routes should the positions not be filled.
Close Contact Protocols
As a result of House Bill 702, Lewis & Clark Public Health will no longer order close contacts to quarantine. Instead, close contacts will receive a recommendation to quarantine. Lewis & Clark Public Health will still require those who test positive for COVID to isolate at home.
“If you or a family member are ill or receive a quarantine recommendation from the county health department, please say home so our students can stay in school,” wrote Weltz.
The news protocols were based on Lewis & Clark Public Health guidelines, which were in turn based on CDC guidance.