On Friday, the Helena Public Schools Board of Trustees built on and approved a remote services plan that will be submitted to the governor's office amid state-ordered school building closures.
The board approved policies that allow the district’s transportation funds to be used for other services while school buildings are closed. Board Chair Luke Muszkiewicz said the Montana Office of Public Instruction has guidelines on what can and cannot be paid for out of this fund.
Some of the funds will be used to provide access to education through internet and computers. The funds will also be used to provide food services, which will be among the primary duties of the school district's transportation contractor First Student.
Transportation Director Tom Cohn is currently working with Robert Worthy, director of food services, to provide additional delivery of school lunches to at-home students, according to Chief of Staff Barb Ridgeway. They have identified 300 sites so far.
According to school district Superintendent Tyler Ream, the district has used the past two weeks to prepare for providing additional remote services in a way that satisfies the expectations of the governor’s office. The district's plan was compiled into what the district is calling its Remote Services Action plan.
The plan lays out learning standards in addition to services the school will provide throughout the closure.
Ream said more than 2,000 Chromebooks have been checked out. The district is looking into ordering more T-Mobile hot spots to provide internet access to students who don't already have it.
According to Ream, the district is aware that learning from home is not the same as a classroom experience. There is a certain value to being in the classroom every day, he said.
“Our educators are doing everything they can to build on this every day,” Ream said.
For most students, the third quarter will end on time and the district doesn’t have plans to extend the school year. However, special education students will have to make up some missed time in summer school.
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