Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Be flexible as schools navigate reopening plans

| August 16, 2020 1:00 AM

The general angst among parents, students and teachers is palpable as the valley gears up for a return to school in these unprecedented times of COVID-19.

Last minute tweaks to reopening plans have everyone on edge, and it’s easy for frustration to boil over — especially when it’s your child’s education or household safety at stake.

Our elected school board trustees have been tasked with making impossible decisions about class schedules, social distancing guidelines and mask policies — topics where chances of unanimous consensus are slim to none. We can only ask our trustees to listen to the experts and do what they believe is best for the majority of their district.

And in general, they’ve done a remarkable job of navigating that tightrope.

All school districts in the valley have made arrangements for both in-person and remote learning, which provides reasonable options for high-risk households and those who can’t or won’t wear a face covering, as mandated by the governor and strongly recommended by public health experts.

While each district’s approach is different, they all have worked diligently to put in place safety protocols such as physical distancing requirements, teaching and reinforcing hand-washing, and sanitizing work spaces multiple times a day.

Let’s also not overlook the monumental task facing our teachers, who will be instructing two classes at once — the students in the classroom and those on a remote video feed. Patience will be key as teachers learn and adapt to this new system.

According to Kalispell Public Schools’ reopening strategy, “Education is an essential service in our community, and as such, the reopening of school campuses for in-person instruction with safety protocols should be prioritized.”

Surveys suggest that most households — over 80 percent — agree that in-person instruction is the best option. While unforeseen challenges certainly lie ahead, empathy, flexibility and respect for the rules put in place to protect the greater good will go a long way in making full-time, in-person learning a reality this school year.