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Bozeman schools prepare, discuss options for Governor Bullock's plan for reopening in fall

Posted at 6:49 PM, Jul 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-09 15:44:52-04

BOZEMAN, MT — Last week, Governor Steve Bullock announced a reopening plan for schools, introducing the idea to the state of schools having three phases of their own.

What does that mean for Bozeman Public Schools?

When students come back to school this fall, a keyword: change.

You can see an example of that in the old library at the old Bozeman High School in the middle of a renovation.

Now Governor Bullock has a plan for reopening schools in fall on paper and according to the superintendent -- change is something they are going to have to get used to.

“All of these plans are great until you have to implement the plan,” says Bob Connors, superintendent of Bozeman Public Schools.

The crumbling sight of the old Bozeman High School during its expansion is just one of many changes to come, just in a different category.

Superintendent Bob Connors says phase one of the governor’s plan - the “cohort system.”

“You try to minimize the groups and keep them together as they move through the day,” Connors says. “The higher you go up in education, the more difficult it is to keep that controlled environment. Works great K-5 but you get to 6-8, it’s a different animal because you are on a different schedule and then you have 9-12 where you have your after school activities and you have your open campuses so lunch is a free-for-all.”

Bullock’s phase one also recommends canceling all assemblies and extracurricular activities and being ready to close school at the sign of an outbreak.

“At least we have a framework from which to work from,” Connors says. “Can we have similar expectations? Will that filter down to Manhattan? Will that filter down to some of the other, all the way down to West Yellowstone.”

More recommendations call for temperature checks, symptom screenings, and the one we’ve heard a lot about: masks, something on Connors’ mind as case numbers creep back up.

“That’s a concern because everybody’s saying our numbers are low, our numbers are low but I don’t see anybody volunteering to be that next number,” Connors says. “I’m wearing a mask to protect you.”

“The benefits that our kids are going to see mentally and physically of being in a school is the adults,” Connors adds. “We have to look at our end, too. We have to look at what are the consequences that the adults are going to face by having to go back to school. Are they caregivers of their parents? Are they caregivers of somebody that’s in a compromised situation?”

The plan goes all the way down to controlling traffic flow; how many kids sit on a bus and watching for crowding as parents drop off and pick their kids up.

Connors’ says nothing has been decided yet and school officials are considering everything until August 7.

“Hopefully, we’ll have an idea prior to August 7 but on August 7, we’ll make that definitive ‘this is where we’re going,’” Connors says. “Once you step into a block schedule or some type of different scheduling that we currently have, we need to sustain that through the semester.”

When the changes come, Connors says the school will be ready, including if the plan has to change, itself.

“That formula, failing forward, has been nevermore put to the test,” Connors says. “We’re going to make mistakes. As long as we learn from them, it’s going to be an unbelievable fall.”

The school board will continue to meet using Zoom up through the beginning of school, which you, the public, can sit in on from home.