The coronavirus has presented a challenge as the new school year gets underway, but Billings Christian is ready for the start of school.
"We're sitting in the office, and we see a student walk by that's going out to the soccer field, and we just are thrilled that we can see a student," said Diann Floth, Billings Christian head of school. "When they start coming back, it's a really neat feeling."
Floth said about 95 percent of the 270 students enrolled will be on campus.
Not everything is in place yet, but the staff has prepared for the school year under COVID-19 guidelines.
"Space out the desks so that kids are not just in groups like they typically do," Floth said. "Make sure our chairs were plastic so they can get cleaned easily in the evenings. The toys we have for our preschool are cleanable, and we have a plan for doing that."
"How can we physically separate kids out with any requirements of the county health board?" said Assistant Principal Stacey Casterline. "Ordering furniture- some of it will not get here until October. So we've had to go to plan B, plan C, plan D."
As students return, the school administration is trying to make it as normal as possible, including bringing back sports.
"Soccer's great," Casterline said. "It's outside. Volleyball, we just received our guidelines from the Montana State Christian Athletic Association."
"It's going to be a week in and week out process," said Dan Hansen, athletics director, teacher and parent. "If we're able to play other teams and keep with our normal schedules there, it'll be great... It's going to be different with people in the stands. We're still trying to figure out how that's going to work. But the goal is every parent's able to watch their kid play too."
Hansen says the guidelines will affect how he teaches in the classroom and on video.
"Now we're talking about having to talk to somebody directly through a screen," Hansen said. "And you somehow have to get the information that they can get excited about without being there right there with them. And even if you are with them, you're so far away. That distance does make a difference when you're a teacher."
Some teachers are also parents.
"My son will be in the seventh grade and last year during the virtual learning, he said, 'I'm so ready to go back to school,'" Casterline said. "And I was like, really. He goes, 'you know it's bad, you know you miss school when you even miss your teachers.' And the feeling's mutual. All the teachers, we all really miss our students."
"Parents, the number one thing is teachers," Floth said. "That is equal to being a Christ-centered school. It's been too long since we've had full school of kids here. And so we're grateful that they can come back now. We think we have a good plan and we will adjust if we need to going forward."
Floth said plans could change before and during the school year.
The first day of school at Billings Christian is Aug. 20.