Community Letter of Reopening School July 29 2020

17H & 1 Logo

July 29, 2020 

Dear Hardin School District 17H & 1 Students, Families, Staff and Community Members, 

It is incredible that we find ourselves at the end of July and only four weeks from the start of school...I hope this notice finds you safe and healthy. Over the past month and a half, our reopening task force, administration and teacher leaders have been working tirelessly in developing our reopening strategies for this coming August. Strategies that span nearly every scenario we can imagine may occur to our students, families and staff as we enter this unprecedented school year. With that in mind, we know that not every situation has been considered and that there may be factors outside of our control at the Federal, state and local levels that have a direct impact on the many facets of public education. The plans that are laid out in this document are what we know now, but we fully understand that these may need to be fluid and will most likely evolve as the school year progresses. 

Our strategies have always had one focus at the forefront; the safety of our students, staff, families and community members...while providing a high-quality education to all students throughout our District. We have taken the lessons learned from our mandated closure back on March 16, 2020 throughout the end of the 2019-20 school year and infused them into our strategies for the upcoming year. We feel strongly that with current guidelines from the national, state and local levels...as well as those lessons learned from the spring, we would be able to provide a quality education in the formats as described below. 

With that being said...at a properly noticed meeting of the Board of Trustees of Hardin School Districts 17H & 1, the following items were discussed and ultimately acted upon: 

- Hardin Public Schools Policy #3141 (Discretionary Nonresident Student Attendance) 

has been suspended for the 2020-21 school year, effective immediately. Simply stated, if a nonresident student makes a request to enter our District, that request will be denied, unless exempted under 20-5-321, MCA. In addition, student transfers within the District will be denied once school starts. - The Board also approved our status of “under a declared emergency” for the 2020-21 

school year, effective through June 30, 2021. - The school day for each building in the District will be extended by 5 minutes on 

Mondays through Thursdays; allowing for an additional 2.5 days in the school calendar. Those extra 2.5 days may be necessary if we get in an unforeseen 

emergency and need immediate school closure...those days will not need to be made up in the calendar. - Hardin School District 17H & 1 will be offering TWO (2) educational platforms for the 

upcoming school year... 

o #1) face-to-face onsite direct instruction Monday – Thursday with a Friday flex 

day to allow for students to seek additional support, access instruction remotely or other educational tasks set forth by the teacher/school, and o #2) remote learning that can be served through technological devices and hot 

spots created throughout the District. There are two exceptions to this...Crow Agency Schools will start remotely due to the “stay-at-home” order in place by the Crow Tribe through August 31, 2020. The other exception is that the Kindergarten Readiness Center will only be taking students ONSITE, but will have to limit their enrollment to 10 students per classroom. Schools will be putting out more information on the registration process shortly! 

I want to thank the parents that filled out our survey; nearly 1300 students were represented in gathering information such as grade level, school attending, transportation and three options (online learning, onsite learning and/or a combination of both) for educational services that best suit the family/student. The numbers show, which are slightly simplified, that one-third of our students want onsite instruction, one-third want remote instruction and the other one-third want some kind of hybrid or modified schedule. The original purpose of the hybrid schedule was to reduce our total number of students onsite to roughly half of our normal count, thus allowing for better practices in social distancing and keeping our grouping numbers within the acceptable realm as directed by the Governor and/or county health department. However, the survey responses show that the number of onsite requests has already been reduced to nearly one-third of our normal count already...a number that we were not expecting. Due to this reason and the extreme complexity of creating an educational plan with the hybrid in place...it was determined that the combination of both onsite and remote learning for a student was not feasible. 

We will be working closely with our bussing contractors over the next several weeks to ensure that our students and drivers will comply with DOT and CDC recommendations for the safety of all. Students will need to register for bus services before they are allowed to ride, they will be assigned seats on the bus and they will be required to wear a mask while on the bus. There will be more information coming from our schools and contractors as we try to iron out transportation complexities. 

The school nutrition staff will continue to provide nutritious breakfast and lunch meals throughout the District, much like they have since March 23, 2020. However, with serving meals both onsite and through a delivery method, we have many hurdles to jump in our preparation for service. Our goal is to ensure social distancing, revising our guidelines on 

serving protocols, putting fewer students in our cafeterias and using alternative sites for meal service. 

Our nursing staff, in direct collaboration with Big Horn County Health Department, is creating procedures and protocol for identifying students who are ill and how we will communicate those procedures to students, families and staff. It is our main priority to keep all students and staff safe while at school. As of this moment, we will not be doing mandatory health or temperature checks throughout the District. However, if trends continue throughout Big Horn County and it is determined that those checks are absolutely necessary...we may start conducting such screenings. Our hope here is that students/parents will self-identify if they are feeling ill and NOT ATTEND SCHOOL. I cannot restate enough times that if your child does not feel well, please do not send them to school! In addition, at this moment, we have not mandated masks within the school buildings...but this may likely change at any moment and we will be in contact with the Governor and Big Horn County Health Department to monitor trends and cases throughout our county. I would encourage all families to be prepared to have masks for your students that will attend onsite, should the need arise. Additional information will be provided on procedures nearer the start of school. 

Fall sports will start as normal; however, there will be guidelines and procedures that will NEED to be in place that follow the guidance set forth by the Montana High School Association early in the week. We anticipate meeting with all the other Class A administrators and activities directors next week and more information will be forthcoming. 

Please understand that this is a work in progress and that there may be instances where decisions are made that may not suit you as a family...we completely respect and know that all families are “in their own place” and under unique circumstances. As a District, we are trying to accommodate those circumstances to the best of our ability. I want to thank you for your time and understanding...I know that this notice only provides a snapshot of how the year will start and what it may look like moving forward, but we now have a direction and plan to provide the best education to all of our students in a safe environment. Again, many more details are to come regarding specifics...please stay tuned to our Facebook page and newly reformatted website at https://www.hardin.k12.mt.us/ for all the up-to-date information. You can also email help@hardin.k12.mt.us, thank you. 

Respectfully, 

Eldon C. Johnson, Supt Hardin School District 17H & 1