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Harlem school board approves blended re-opening


Last updated 7/21/2020 at 11:41am

Harlem Public Schools Board of Trustees held a meeting Monday and discussed its re-opening plan for the upcoming school year.

The board approved in going forward with a blended/hybrid plan.

Superintendent Doreen Warren presented three options of re-opening plan: A full opening, staying with school closure and the hybrid plan of the two.

“While we have concerns about the changing circumstances here in Blaine County, most teachers expressed missing the kids and on the survey most of the parents want to keep school closure, but also expressed how difficult it is for their students in isolation,” she said. “Now we think, we’ll overcome a lot of that with the Chromebook initiative — putting a Chromebook in every student’s hand between fourth grade and 12th grade and we’ll also overcome that with all the training the teachers are getting.”

She is concerned because it is a long way from now till the first day of school, she said.

Warren did not endorse any of the options, but said she does not think fully re-opening would work.

The school has presented a document listing the three options, available at the school website at https://harlem-hs.k12.mt.us , which gives details of the hybrid option.

“The number of students are limited and staggered in the school buildings,” the plan says. “All staff report to their buildings each day.”

The students will be screened every morning, it says, and good hygiene will be taught and practiced.

It says that breakfast and lunches will be provided for all the students whether they are working in the buildings or working remotely.

“Students between fourth and 12th grades will participate in the implementation of 1:1 Chromebook initiative,” it added. “Teachers will receive technology training in several different areas.”

Warren told the board she surveyed parents and asked what they saw, what went well with remote learning and what they’d like to see continued, and where the district can approve.

The parent responses on the question of what went well were: They were happy with the meals being delivered, turning in assignments electronically, communication, the packets that were sent out, support from the teachers and more, she said.

She said of the families who responded 14 percent want a normal re-opening, 36 percent want the blended re-opening and 44 percent want school closure, and about 4 percent were unsure at this time.

For the second question of where the district can approve, she said, the responses include: Homework directions and grading, better system to make sure work is turned in, more teacher-student communication and more.

Warren said she has yet to hear any plans from the Montana High School Association about extracurricular activities,.

“If a family elects to have their student 100 percent remote, we will totally support that, but if MHSA decides to go ahead with sports this, I’m not sure that they will, that a 100 percent remote kid could not participate in sports,” she said. 

The school closure made using the Individualized Education Program very hard, she said, but with the blended/hybrid plan it could take care of some issues because the students will be in the building some of the time.

Harlem Elementary School Principal Shiloh Seymour said before the vote that after the board made the decision on what plan to take she and Warren will meet with the special education staff on what that means for their students and their needs are met.

“We have to take in some considerations of some health issues with some of our special ed kids,” she said. “... I’ve seen other models where the kids come in more than the regular kids that help meet their needs and to catch them back up on their skills.”

She said the Chromebooks will also help the special education students and parents.

The next Harlem School Board meeting is set for Monday, Aug. 17.


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