School Closure for COVID-19

Parents and Families of our Helena Public Schools,

Thank you again for your time and attention this afternoon. As a follow-up to the previous message, the below information is intended to provide additional context pertaining to what you can expect from the Helena Public Schools in the coming days. With the closure of all public schools in the State of Montana, the Helena Public Schools will move to a digital learning bridge for the duration of the closure.

The closure beings tomorrow, Monday, March 16, as campuses will only be open to pick-up personal belongings, books and, if applicable, medication.  As it stands this closure will take us to our scheduled Spring Break, March 30 through April 3. That noted, the earliest possible time our students and teachers could return to an in-person learning environment will be Monday, April 6.

In the Helena Public Schools, we have been working for several weeks to consider everything from remote learning to needed access to school meals and supplies. More details will arrive in the coming days as we work through this unprecedented situation. For now, please see information below.

Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17:

School campuses will be open tomorrow from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm for students to retrieve personal belongings, books and, if applicable, medication. If medication pick-up is needed, we ask that a parent or adult family member over the age of 18 reports to your school office to retrieve your child’s needed medication. Students are encouraged to bring available textbooks home. However, in classes where classroom sets of textbooks are occasionally utilized, such texts will not be available for checkout as that learning material will be covered using other means during this in-person closure.

Our school kitchens will be offering hot breakfasts and lunches for pickup at students’ regularly scheduled times for both Monday, 3/16 and Tuesday, 3/17. School meals will move to grab-and-go options by Wednesday, 3/18. More information pertaining to school lunches will be forthcoming over the next two days.

Transportation, SACC services, school sports/athletics, student clubs and all school-associated and/or on campus activities and meetings have been suspended and will not operate during this closure.

By Wednesday, March 18, our school campuses will be closed to all non-essential personnel. For those students needing technology a pickup schedule will be sent home and students will be able to checkout a Chromebook during Wednesday’s designated time.  For the duration of this closure, email will be the preferred form of home/school communication.

Remote Learning:

We have been planning to implement remote learning since we learned that the COVID-19 outbreak may become widespread to the point that we would need to close school buildings. Remote learning will be a new opportunity for most of our students and will look different by grade and age-range. In the coming days, you will receive specific information pertaining to how your child/children can access online content associated with our school district. While not the same as in-person learning, our educators will be working to design learning opportunities that will maintain the integrity of teaching and learning during this time of ambiguity. Students engaged in online experiences can expect to access materials via our Clever learning portal using their normal username and login information (more information to come). In the coming days, you will receive additional information pertaining to remote learning first from the Helena Public Schools (3/17) and then your child’s teacher/teachers (3/18). Remote learning materials will be posted/communicated beginning Thursday, 3/19 and continuing through the duration of this closure (with the exception of Spring Break).

  • High Schools (including PAL): High school students can expect a remote learning environment that will provide a mix of online opportunities as well as familiar research and assignment. These will be coordinated by class, by their specific teachers.
  • Middle Schools: Similar to high school, middle school students can expect a blended remote learning environment that will provide a variety of learning materials, interactions and assignments.
  • Elementary Schools: Remote learning will vary for elementary students. Younger grades can expect more traditional learning materials, shared via email. Older grades can expect a remote environment that is more blended in nature (tradition and online).
  • Pre-Kindergarten: Preschool students will not be expected to engage in online learning environments. However, preschool classroom staff will connect families with resources and recommended activities to support remote learning.
  • Special Education: Our Special Education educators will be coordinating efforts to ensure student educational needs are met to the greatest extent possible during these unique circumstances. Special Education educators will be working to design and provide support and opportunities to students with disabilities in a manner consistent with their individualized education plan goals. Please expect that this will look different for every child and may vary significantly from the learning environment that they are accustomed to in their classroom. Nevertheless, our educators will be considering applicable resources and opportunities over the coming days and will be working to reach our to students and parents to provide support.
  • Gifted & Talented: For children receiving Gifted & Talented services, please look for communication from your lead teacher as to opportunities and materials that will further the course of study that they were focusing on prior to this closure.
  • Student Services/Counseling: If your child is actively receiving student support services, please expect contact from the school-professional that provides their school-based services

Technology Checkout:

All of the components and resources associated with the above described remote learning environment will function from any personal home computer, tablet or smartphone device. Should technology be associated with your child’s remote environment (largely grades 3 through 12) and you need technology, Chromebook checkout will be available this coming week on Wednesday, 3/18 between 8:00 and noon at your child’s high school or middle school.  Elementary students needing to checkout a Chromebook will be able to do so at their elementary school between noon and 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.  This checkout will occur at school sites only but will be open to all students that require a device. We are also actively working on home internet solutions and in he coming days, we expect to provide additional information. For now, please see forthcoming updates for times and locations associated with Chromebook pick-up sites.

Please expect daily communication from the Helena Public Schools as we quickly transition in association with this needed closure. While I know there are countless unanswered questions that remain, I am confident that we will do what is necessary during this challenging time to respond, support and rise together as a community. I want to thank the hundreds of you who provided input into this difficult decision. On behalf of the employees of the Helena Public Schools, I cherish the opportunity to serve our Helena children and families. Thank you for that opportunity and for your continued support.

Best,

Tyler Ream

Superintendent, Helena Public Schools

Tyler Ream

Learner, Educator and Proud Superintendent of the Helena Public Schools

55 South Rodney – Helena, MT. 59601


COVID-19 Coronavirus Update (1) March 15, 2020

Dear Parents, Families and Colleagues,

Governor Bullock has made the difficult decision to close all public schools in the State of Montana for the next two weeks. This closure is effective immediately as our schools will be closed for regular school/instruction beginning tomorrow, March 16 through Friday, March 27. However, with Spring Break beginning Monday, March 30, the next possible in-person school day will Monday, April 6.

Please know that we are meeting now to plan forward and will be communicating additional details shortly (tonight) and across the coming days. For now, school campuses will be open tomorrow (3/16) and Tuesday (3/17) for students and parents to pick-up needed personal belongings, books, medication, etc. However, no classes will be in session and teachers will likely not be available due to planning. Hot meal service will also be available for regularly scheduled breakfast and lunch but transportation services will be canceled for the duration of this closure.

For the next three days, our educators will be working to develop materials consistent with remote or virtual learning. For grades 6 through 12, we plan on delivering educational content via an online platform. For grades PK through 5, teachers may opt for more traditional educational material (packets of resources) emailed to parents. However, some elementary teachers may choose to design a more blended environment that includes some online learning opportunities.

Remote learning is scheduled to begin on Thursday, March 19 but please allow for delays should your child’s teacher/teachers be unavailable or ill for any reason.

Finally, we are working on plans to provide continued meal service and optional technology (Chromebooks) checkout. Our plan is to move to regional meal pickup sites with the eventual goal of neighborhood or home delivery. For those in need of a Chromebook device to access remote learning content (primarily grades 6 through 12), regional pick-up sites will be established and communicated in the coming days.

If you know of families who are not receiving communication from my office, please have them call their child’s school office and provide updated contact information to include current email and phone numbers.

In closing, I applaud Governor Bullock’s decision to close Montana public schools as a strategy to combat the spread of the COVID-19 Coronavirus. As I’ve heard repeatedly over this past week, in the end, it will be impossible to know if we overreacted or did too much, but it will be quite apparent if we under reacted or did too little. Please look for additional communication shortly.

Best,

Tyler Ream
Superintendent, Helena Public Schools