Troy, Libby plan to continue with remote learning

| May 1, 2020 8:24 AM

Students in Libby and Troy will continue doing schoolwork remotely for the remainder of the year.

Gov. Steve Bullock is letting schools reopen May 7 as part of a phased relaxation of pandemic restrictions. Public school officials, though, are encouraged to adopt a mix of classroom and remote learning going forward.

Phase one, while allowing for shops, restaurants and churches to reopen, requires that people maintain social distancing guidelines, generally keeping six feet or more away from one another in public. It also recommends avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people.

Libby Superintendent Craig Barringer said that even when officials looked at the second phase, for which there is no set start date, the number of people permitted at social gatherings is capped at 50. That made operating schools as usual impossible, he said.

Not that officials expected to do so in the short term.

“We knew we could never bring everybody back in,” Barringer said.

The decision to stick to remote learning was made with input from members of the Lincoln County Board of Health and the COVID-19 task force, he said.

Another wrinkle comes from federal law regulating school meals, he said. Once you begin feeding students onsite, you cannot deliver meals offsite, Barringer said. Thus, reopening schools even partially would bring an end to the district’s regular food drops around town.

And many parents have indicated they would not be sending their students back to school this year regardless of whether the buildings were open, he said.

But Libby will begin offering one-on-one or one-on-two appointments with teachers in the near future. Barringer said teachers could use the in-person time to help a student catch up or better understand a lesson. It might last 10 minutes or half-an-hour, he said.

Appointments might be set up either by the teacher or a parent or guardian. Families can use the Internet-based parent-teacher conference program to make an appointment, with administrators ensuring only a few students are in the district’s buildings at any given time, Barringer said.

He does not expect many parents will want to send their child into a school building in the near future.

Barringer expects to have a more detailed plan ready for the Libby Public School Board in time for the May 4 or May 11 meeting.

In Troy, school officials sent a letter out to parents April 27 announcing the district would stick to remote learning by-and-large as per directions from the board of trustees. As in Libby, small groups of students will receive support from teachers and district staff, officials wrote.

“We will send out information on these study groups and it will be limited, short in duration, and students must sign up,” officials wrote.

The board also approved curtailed after school activities, to be held outdoors and following social distancing guidelines. Students in good academic standing and with no missing assignments can participate.