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Bozeman School Board decides on Blended Model for reopening schools

“As we go for a phased approach, I think it will get us where we want to be in the long run.”
Posted at 11:06 AM, Aug 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-12 13:06:42-04

BOZEMAN — Bozeman School District Trustees voted 5-3 in favor of the blended return to school model.

That means kids will start the year going to school 2 days a week for in-person learning and 3 days for online remote learning.

“I think school should begin the year with the blended learning option,” said School Board Chair Sandy Wilson.

“As we go for a phased approach, I think it will get us where we want to be in the long run,” said Trustee Tanya Reinhardt.

“It’s going to give that physical distance that we absolutely need. And that’s going to cut down a lot of worrying that is out there,” said Trustee Wendy Tage.

For parents, teachers, and students, there are some definite concerns with the plan moving forward.

Trustees opposed to the blended model chimed in on some of those after a public comment period.

“If we gap these kids, some don’t have books at home. Some don’t get square meals. Based on the numbers we have, I will not sleep at night,” said Vice Chair Andy Willett.

Trustees and parents opposed to the blended model also said having kids out of school for three days a week puts them at just as much or more risk for increased exposure.

“I do have a concern that is yes, it’s slightly less risky, but there’s an increased risk I feel like when they’re outside the confines of the school district and the expectations that are being set there,” said Trustee Kevin Black.

More than 1,000 emails were sent to trustees for public comment.

Childcare during remote days continues to be one of the biggest concerns for parents and teachers in the district, as well as the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of students and families.

“I think if you looked at the base of the students in Bozeman, many students don’t have a parent home during the day that can help guide them through their school work, feed them during the day, give them the love and social interactions they need from their teachers and friends,” said Ryan, a Bozeman parent during public comment.

Last week, Superintendent Bob Connors made a formal recommendation of the Blended Model in front of trustees.

On Monday he hopes kids can get back into school quickly, and Bozeman Schools can transition into the Cohort Model as soon as it's appropriate.

On Monday evening, trustees also voted 8-0 to push back the first day of school’s start date to September 8th, to give teachers more time to get to know the new online learning software for remote learning.