BILLINGS — As summer school revs up for Billings high school students, district Superintendent Greg Upham is looking forward to in-person classes starting on Aug. 24 after the COVID-19 pandemic forced teachers and students to switch to online learning earlier in the year.
"We’re exploring a lot of options on what (going back to class) looks like. We are following the ever-moving path of the COVID-19 virus," Upham said Tuesday.
Now, the school district wants to hear from the parents of students with high health risks to make accommodations for the upcoming school year.
"We need to communicate that with our building administrators because that is going to assist us in our planning. The same thing with faculty as we move forward. But there's some unknowns in some of this. But I really wanted to get this information out as soon as possible so we can do the appropriate planning," Upham said.
Parents can contact their building principals to make arrangements, Upham said.
Administrators are working on plans to minimize large-group interactions among students, although nothing is final. Upham said schools may stagger the times of recess, lunch and passing periods to allow fewer students to move through the building at a time.
"Social distancing in schools is an oxymoron, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t take some measurements about when do students arrive, when do they leave, how many are released to lunch, how many are in the hallways at the same time. All of those types of logistics that we can control, we will work with," Upham said.
Hundreds of technology devices were given out to students at the start of the pandemic. Upham said about 90 percent of them have been returned so far. He said drop-offs can be arranged with your school principal, or by calling the Lincoln Center at 406-281-5000.
Some high school students are already back at it, hitting the books in socially-distanced summer school. The first session started Monday. Upham said the first session is made up mostly of seniors who needed to make up a credit or two in order to graduate.
“They were six feet apart and had face masks on and we had more face masks available to them. Everything has been going well. So it’s nice to see live instruction," Upham said.
Two more high school sessions are scheduled for next month, with the first starting July 8. Parents looking to enroll students should call 406-281-5100.
Summer support classes for kindergarten through eighth grade are tentatively scheduled for sometime in late July or early August. Those classes would be paid for with the help of $3 million Billings School District 2 is expected to receive from the federal CARES Act, or coronavirus relief bill.
Upham said the money is "in the pipeline" and the district expects to see it soon. There are also other expenses that can be covered by that money that the district has already incurred, like sanitation and personal protective equipment in the schools.
“We don’t know exactly what (K-8 summer support) looks like yet because we’re monitoring the amount of funds that will be available to us versus what we’re going to need to do. So we’re just weighing those options. We’d like to be able to offer that, we’re just looking at the logistics that go with it,” Upham said.