LOCKWOOD — High school students in Lockwood will head back to a brand new facility on Aug. 26, as school district administrators work to fill full-time substitute positions, Lockwood Schools Superintendent Tobin Novasio said Tuesday.
“Substitutes are a challenge for every school in Montana right now. A lot of our subs are retirees, so they fall into those high-risk categories. We know that some of those folks probably won’t come back in," Novasio said.
The school board was expected to hire three full-time substitute teachers at its board meeting Tuesday night, Novasio said. The district will help pay for the staff with the help of about $300,000 in federal CARES Act (COVID-19 relief) grant money, Novasio said.
"We’re looking for some more. So if anyone has a teaching degree and is looking for a teaching job still, we are looking at hiring some full-time subs for this first semester," Novasio said.
In normal years, Lockwood substitute teachers sometimes teach for other area school districts. Novasio said the full-time substitutes will help quell the need to have others who may teach at multiple schools per week.
“The idea is to have those extra hands on board, but they would still be within the Lockwood bubble. They wouldn’t be getting exposed to the virus potentially elsewhere," Novasio said.
Lockwood administrators have released a three-tiered plan to get students back in the classroom. The plan is modeled after a stoplight, with red indicating a severe COVID-19 outbreak and green if case counts are low.
To read the plan and other specifics about kindergarten through eighth grade school at Lockwood, visit the school district's web site by clicking here.
“We wanted to be able to transition from plan to plan with as little disruption as we can. So if there’s a major outbreak here in Lockwood, we could go from the yellow plan to the red plan with minimal disruption," Novasio said.
Individual schedules will look a bit different for each Lockwood student, Novasio said.
In kindergarten through fifth grade, students will be split up into a.m. and p.m. sections.
“We felt it was really important to get those kids here on campus every day to get that immediate feedback for learning reading and math," Novasio said.
The morning-afternoon split allowed for 10 to 15 kids in a classroom at a time in the elementary school, Novasio said.
"That allows us to have the space to socially distance within the classroom. The kids won’t have to wear their mask all day long because they will be grouped together. They will be able to be six feet apart and be able to take the masks off," Novasio said.
Sixth through 12th grades see more variation in scheduling. These older students will have a mix of both online and in-person classes.
Students will be broken up into three groups and will come to in-person school a minimum of one day a week on Tuesdays through Thursdays, Novasio said. The grouping allows for about 50 kids per day to be cohorted in the school at a time, Novasio said
Mondays will be reserved for special needs students and for teachers to prep for online learning. Fridays will be essentially invite-only for students that need extra help.
"For kids that are following behind, struggling, might not have as good of internet access or as much support at home, we’ll bring those kids in on Fridays trying to keep it under the 50 kids in a group cohort," Novasio said.
Elective classes like music, shop and family and consumer science will also be available to students on Mondays and Fridays, Novasio said.
“The first 20 kids, or whatever the teacher feels is safe to have in that space with the social distancing, those kids can sign up and can do the hands-on stuff for a couple hours of the week," Novasio said.
With older students in the classroom maybe two days a week, Novasio said their other days will be supplemented with online learning. He said a teacher may record a lecture with audio/visual elements that the student can watch on the off day. Then when they come to in-person class, teachers can expand on the lesson and answer questions.
“Hopefully what parents will see, a lot more of kids getting support while they’re here at school and doing the background information at home. Not trying to work on the assignments at home as much without support," Novasio said.
Lockwood High School students will have the pleasure of attending a brand new school building this year. Novasio said the ribbon-cutting may not be as large because of COVID-19. There will still be small group tours after a ceremony planned for Aug. 20 on the high school football field.
“Nobody more than our teachers, just like our students and our parents want to get back to normal and we don’t know what normal is going to be like for a while. It’s obviously thrown a monkey wrench in our plans of opening the building. But I encourage people to come out and see it. It’s a beautiful and amazing facility," Novasio said.
For more about the Lockwood Schools plan for the upcoming year, visit the school district's web site, lockwoodschool.org.