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Billings remote school enrollment initially lower than superintendent expected

Posted at 12:22 PM, Aug 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-06 14:22:54-04

About 800 Billings students were scheduled to be enrolled in remote classes for the 2020 school year as of Tuesday, much less than the 5,000 students Billings School District 2 officials were expecting based on a survey conducted in July.

Billings School District 2 Superintendent Greg Upham said Wednesday a portion of parents may be waiting to hear more about specifics about the remote and in-person school day before making a decision.

“There’s also a challenge for our parents. They want to be able to see the school day and they want to be able to see what courses are actually offered. We do have the curriculum out. We want to broadcast that out more readily for parents," Upham said.

Upham met with all school administrators Wednesday to hammer out more details of what the school day will look like for remote and in person. He said that information will be posted on the school district's web site sometime Thursday.

The draft plan covering many other aspects of the Billings schools reopening plan can be reached by clicking here. The district has also compiled a list of frequently asked parent questions about returning to school. Find the FAQ by clicking here.

Parents have the soft deadline of Aug. 14 to fill out documents telling the school district whether their students will spend the entire year in the digital or physical classroom when class starts on Aug. 24.

“I think they are watching the virus and trying to make the best decision. Which I fully understand, but at the same time, our urgency is that we have to staff this system. I’ve shared on Facebook and I’ll share it publicly too. I realize the timeline is tight. We will do the best we can for parents who are waiting to see what would be the best for their child," Upham said.

There is flexibility if a student is finding a tough time learning remotely, Upham said. However, barring a major scientific breakthrough on COVID-19, Upham said the year-long commitment remains.

"To be able to retool completely at semester is a challenge. Now that doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t look at making some changes for students who are experiencing difficulties and/or if there is a sudden change and a vaccine comes out and we no longer have a need for remote, we would look at moving that. I just didn’t want to send false information out that it would be easy to go back and forth, because it takes a lot of planning," Upham said.

Students in remote classes will be given a school computer to complete their assignments while at home.

If a student or staff member in physical school becomes infected with COVID-19, a whole classroom could be required to quarantine at home for up to 10 days. Upham said teachers will be prepared to make the switch to remote learning in the event of a COVID-19 case.

"Pending the health of the individual teacher, we would expect that instruction would continue from a remote standpoint. If the teacher is unable to teach the course due to illness, then we would look to our substitute pool," Upham said.

Finding substitutes has been a problem for the district in the past, but Upham said administrators are trying to build up the pool of subs.

“We’re trying to build capacity and have been. It’s hard for substitute teachers and long-term assignments. We have a substitute issue anyway, but we’re working on some measures to assist with that," Upham said.

More information about the Billings public schools can be found at billingsschools.org.

RELATED: Billings School District 2 officials announce plan to head back to school amid COVID-19

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