School Board September roundup
Alder, Twin Bridges, Sheridan
The Sheridan School Board met for September to discuss the first few weeks of coronavirus changes and the possibility of adding a prekindergarten program to the Sheridan School District.
As of Sept. 15, Madison County does not have four or more active coronavirus cases, and thus the Governor’s K-12 mask mandate is not required. Students in the Sheridan School District are therefore not required to wear masks, but it is recommended. “We’ve had zero issues,” Board Chair Kendra Horn said in regard to mask wearing.
Students are currently eating lunch—grab and go style—only with their classes, mostly outside as the weather remains nice. Horn is unsure of what will come as temperatures drop. Students remain in their cohorts during the day, which has proved easier to manage with elementary students.
High school students have more class changes, time spent in halls between classes and extracurricular activities. Horn explained the district rearranged classes in an effort to prevent cross contamination, but in some cases, it is more difficult.
Fall sports programs have gone well so far, according to Horn. Each school has different rules as far as spectators go, but all districts must follow guidelines set by the Montana High School Association (MHSA) for players. Horn appreciates the normalcy that being able to host a fall sports season provides, although she will not be able to attend the upcoming junior high football game in Big Sky that her son will play in due to different county spectator rules.
“It was a learning curve probably the first week, but it seems like everybody is doing pretty well now,” Horn said.
Eleven students have enrolled in the virtual homeschooling program, Bridgeway Academy, the district purchased. Horn said that the report at the Sept. 8 board meeting concerning the program was positive. “I’m glad we were proactive and got these programs,” Horn said, mentioning the system had almost reached its maximum amount of schools it could provide for as the Sheridan School District decided to go forward with purchasing.
Next meeting, the board will discuss implementing a prekindergarten program. This item was tabled during Tuesday’s meeting but is anticipated to be voted on next month.
Twin Bridges School Board met last Tuesday to discuss the first weeks of the school year and hired a middle school volleyball coach. The whole meeting was, “done in less than an hour,” Board Chair Steve Janzen said.
Students are eating with their cohorts, spaced out in the lunchroom. Picnic tables were set up outside to provide extra eating space and are used to the extent possible.
As of Sept. 15, Madison County does not have four or more active coronavirus cases so the Governor’s K-12 mask mandate does not apply to the Twin Bridges School District. Masks are not required in school but are in various fall sport games’ settings. Some faculty and students are wearing masks independently.
At the Sept. 8 meeting, there was discussion about whether or not a teacher could require mask wearing in individual classrooms. Janzen explained that was not the current plan. Teachers could request this, but not require. When requested, Janzen said, almost all students are amenable.
Each month at meetings, the board recognizes members and individuals for outstanding efforts. Jamie Reynolds, school librarian, was commended for taking on APEX, the distance learning program. Trisha Smith and Hannah Reynolds were recognized for helping keep students distanced at lunchtime. Janzen gave continuous kudos to the job the cleaning staff has done.
Alder School District met for September to discuss purchasing a steam table for hot lunches and looking into other pole barn options for the basketball court.
“It was really a quiet day,” County Superintendent Pam Birkeland said of the meeting.
The district approved purchasing a steam table, shielded by a sneeze guard, to keep hot food warm once students are able to go back to eating hot meals in the lunchroom. When this is allowed, students will get lunch at staggered times and the steam table will keep food warm for all. Purchasing insulated mugs was also approved. Currently, lunch is brought to the students in their classrooms by the teachers.
The district is looking at other options for building a pole barn structure above the basketball court to provide more outdoor instruction opportunities. A couple local businesses, in Ennis and Virginia City, have acquired similar structures and the district is looking into using the same construction sources.
Birkeland said the first weeks of school have gone well. Recesses are staggered to help keep students with their classes and instruction is happening outside as often as possible. “The teachers all say it’s going really well,” she said.
As of Sept. 15, Madison County does not have four or more active coronavirus cases and thus the Governor’s K-12 mask mandate does not apply to the Alder School District. Adults are wearing masks, especially in close situations where social distancing is not as feasible. Students are wearing masks in these close situations as well, but not expected to for the whole school day.
Rural Fridays are not taking place in person this year, but older Alder students are participating in one-hour long virtual sessions each week. University of Montana Western students are conducting the sessions, gaining experience in virtual teaching.