Students in Great Falls public schools started their first day remotely as COVID cases and staff absences have skyrocketed across the district.
The number of students and staff that were confirmed COVID-positive as of noon on Monday was 185, leading to staff shortages including substitute teachers.
All Great Falls public schools will be closed for the remainder of this week.
Superintendent Tom Moore said the GFPS Board of Trustees wants to allow adequate time for staff to recover and return to work.
Moore said, "Having 12, 13 percent of our staff out yesterday put a real crunch in our ability to deliver high-quality programming. We know that when we pivot to remote learning, we ask students to go home and learn in that regard in that environment, it's not ideal, but it's a necessity."
He added, "Part of the problem is workforce issue. We just don't have enough substitutes to fill 50, 60 jobs. Yesterday, we had over 50 classrooms without a teacher, so that puts stress on the other staff. They've got to cover classes and we got to bring in other folks from across the district to fill those classrooms and we don't have the capacity to do that."
At this point, GFPS plans to resume in-school classes on Tuesday, January 18.
Meals will be available to all enrolled students from 11:00-12:30 at Paris Gibson Education Center. They will be distributed from the kitchen entrance on 25th Street. Limited options of cold meals will be provided along with a breakfast for the following day on through Friday, January 14.
With GFPS closing all buildings and shifting to remote learning, all athletic activities and competitions scheduled for this week are canceled or postponed.