Public schools closed for 2 weeks

By 
Miriam Campan
Reporter
Tuesday, March 17, 2020
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The playground at Lewis and Clark is eerily absent of the students who usually play during school recess.
Photo by Miriam Campan

On Sunday, March 15 Governor Steve Bullock implemented two executive orders and declared a state of emergency in Montana due to the global outbreak of COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus.
In a memorandum addressed to the “The People of the State of Montana  . . . ” Bullock wrote, “I hereby direct the following measures be in place in the State of Montana effective immediately. All non-residential public schools in Montana are closed through March 27, 2020.”  
School closures for the next two weeks have affected Lewistown Public Schools, Head Start, and the local Boys and Girls Club. Small Wonder, however, will continue to provide child-care services.

Lewistown Public Schools
Superintendent Thom Peck and other Lewistown school officials met on Monday, March 16 to address local concerns such as continuing school through online opportunities and offering students the opportunity to receive nutritious meals during the closure, possible changes to the 2019-2020-school calendar and cancellations.
According to Peck, “Through our survey and existing student information we are working on pick-up places and times for students that would like school meals. More information will be forthcoming.”
On maintaining academic standards, Peck said, “We are working with teachers on several distance learning opportunities that include teacher websites with several links, Google classroom and other resources available to parents and students. If students do not have a computer the schools could checkout a Chromebook to students where they can log in and have internet access to these resources. We will also provide learning packets to families to help maintain student learning.

Peck added on the school calendar and cancellations, “Originally, in Governor Bullock’s statement, full funding would be provided and these days would not have to be made up. We have postponed Prom, cancelled large group events (Cheerfest, school assemblies, ACT Test, etc.) in the district and all out-of-district travel or events for both staff and students.”
For parents and students alike the Superintendent offered the following, “Expect consistent communication from the schools, including a survey by phone and a call from their children’s teacher on distance learning. Try to keep in a routine with wake-up times, an eating schedule, school time, family time, chores, etc. Implement best practices to combat sickness by washing your hands frequently, covering your cough, drinking fluids, eating healthy and avoiding crowds and getting plenty of rest.”
Should the schools be closed beyond March 27, Peck said, “We will take direction from the Office of Public Instruction, Montana Department of Health and Human Services, and Fergus County Health and Emergency Services to communicate a plan that puts Lewistown families and students in the very best to continue their learning while meeting all accreditation standards.
The Montana Office of Public Instruction recommended that your child’s school or district be your first source of information. The Lewistown School District telephone number is 535-8777.

Local Boys and Girls Club
The local Boys and Girls Club will also close their doors for a minimum of two weeks.
CEO Elisabeth Martell said, “I would love for our families to reach out to us through our Facebook page or leave a message at the Club.”
Addressing the needs of children, who would normally receive their weekday dinners at the Club Martell said if a family is in need of additional food items the Club will help where they can. The office will have limited staff and varied hours over the next two weeks but will return any messages or phone calls as soon as possible. Their number is 535-2257.

Head Start
Executive Director Cherie Errecart reported that Head Start would also be closed for the two weeks mandated by the Governor’s executive orders.  
“Barring any change in public policy we will remain closed to students,” said Errecart.
She added, “Head Start is in the process of putting together a plan on how to provide meals for students and when they will be available for pickup.”  
Errecart recommended parents call Head Start at 535-7751 for more information.

Small Wonder
According to a letter dated March 15, 2020, Small Wonder will remain open and will continue to follow the recommendations from local medical providers, the Central Montana Health District as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A written statement to Small Wonder parents and guardians outlined their precautions, “Small Wonder’s priority is the health and safety of the children and families we serve. We will continue to follow best practices in regularly disinfecting high touch surfaces and having children and staff wash hands frequently to reduce the spread of germs. Children showing any signs and symptoms of an illness should remain home for 14 days. We will continue to regularly monitor children for development of signs and illness.”

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