The Clancy school superintendent told a socially-distanced group of parents and educators that students may have to wear masks when they return to school in the fall during a Board of Trustees meeting Thursday, July 9.

Mask wearing is just one of many new COVID-19 protocols to be implemented when school resumes Aug. 26. And some of those changes are going to cost money that school doesn’t have right now, according to Dave Selvig, Clancy School superintendent and principal.

“It’s really going to be, to say the least, interesting,” he said,

Selvig said he wants to follow the Montana Office of Public Instructions guidelines as closely as possible. The guidelines, published in a report July 2,  illustrate possible scenarios schools across the state may be facing, how to navigate them and helpful resources to tap into. A finalized plan for Clancy School will be sent out to the community mid-late July, said Selvig.

Selvig said he thinks masks should be worn, but understood the hindrance it places in the classroom. If masks are required for students and faculty, he said more breaks will be taken by classrooms to go outside, socially distance and take their masks off.

“I just want to do everything to avoid distance learning, if we can,” Selvig said.

He also added that following the OPI guidelines will better ensure the safety of students, teachers and parents. He wants to have every student in the school rather than switching to an “A B schedule,” where some kids go to school one day and the others another day, because for households where both parents work, keeping their kid at home unsupervised is not an option. 

But above all, he wants to avoid the possibility of a positive case within the school.

If there is a positive case, school will be shut down for two to five days in order for county health officials to conduct contact tracing within the school. And if it is found the school was not complying with OPI guidelines, the school may be liable and possibly sued for the positive case, said Selvig. Selvig concluded the school may possibly be liable from an email he was forwarded from the Montana School Board Association which gives legal advice to many schools throughout Montana.

The school has touchless thermometers that will be used to take the temperature of every student each morning.  If a child has a fever, even if only related to the common cold, they will  they will have to go home for at least 24 hours, possibly longer, according to Selvig. 

“If the parents really do their part and keep the kids home when they have fevers, it will be so helpful,” Selvig said.

Another change to the upcoming school year is that the school will possibly have to run two additional bus routes, and each student will be required to wear a mask while on the bus. The school can only allow 50 students on a bus in accordance with state guidelines. Ultimately, Selvig said this may add another $60,000 to $70,000 dollars to the budget. With an additional 25,000 to 30,000 for putting aides on the bus, as well.

“We just don’t know what is going to happen yet,” Selvig said.

He said he doesn’t want to put the burden on taxpayers, but if they cannot find additional funds elsewhere, the school may have to resort to doing so. 

The transportation fund is a permissive levy and schools can put a levy out for the amount they need. However, they have “mine money” left over from the closure of the Montana Tunnels mine that could cover the possible additional transportation costs as well, Selvig said.

For students who can not make it to class, the school will be offering online classes. The school bought nearly 260 chromebook laptops, for students in grades 2-8. If a student can not make it to school, they can take a device home and an online program is available to be able to distance learn, according to Selvig.

Selvig will meet Thursday with teachers, and later with the community to hear concerns before finalizing a plan for the upcoming school year.

Other possible changes include not offering band class, stressing the importance of maintaining student mental health, hiring a part-time nurse and a custodian who will be working during the school day, cleaning the bathroom once an hour and ensuring classrooms stay sanitized. Additional information will be available when Clancy School finalizes their COVID-19 later this month.

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