Libby Middle High School switches to remote learning starting Oct. 19

by WILL LANGHORNE
The Western News | October 20, 2020 7:00 AM

Administrators closed the doors of both Libby Middle High School and the Libby Elementary School after health officials confirmed more coronavirus cases within the district.

Students at the elementary school will remain on a remote learning schedule until at least Oct. 28. Middle high school students will go remote beginning Oct. 19 for at least a week.

Officials have quarantined one class at the Libby Preschool. The remaining class will stay in session with other preschool students at Kootenai Valley Head Start. Extracurricular activities will remain in place.

Superintendent Ron Goodman said three staff members tested positive for the virus last week. As of Oct. 16, no staff members at the middle high school had tested positive for the virus. Health officials also confirmed coronavirus cases in an unspecified number of students at both the elementary and middle high school.

“The illness and resulting quarantine procedures have taken a large toll on the schools,” Goodman said in an email.

As it has become increasingly difficult to keep students in school, Goodman urged community members to follow measures designed to slow the spread of the virus.

Goodman closed the elementary school on Oct. 14 after learning an individual became infected with the virus within the building.

Health officials determined the virus was spreading between school staff after an employee tested positive on Oct. 13. Though he did not give their title, Goodman said the individual had a “pretty impactful” job in the district.

On the day of the closure, Goodman learned another staff member tested positive for the virus. As staff members became infected, Goodman realized that the district would not have the numbers to keep the elementary school open. He anticipated that health department officials would quarantine too many employees for the school to keep holding in-person classes.

Health officials tested around 40 staff members from the elementary school and around 20 from the middle high school on Oct. 14. Goodman said he would use the results of the test to determine whether or not to keep classrooms open.

Even before the latest round of testing, school administrators had struggled with high numbers of quarantined students. Andrew Steiger, elementary school principal, said health officials had quarantined around 58 students and five to six staff members the week prior to an Oct. 12 school board meeting. Ruth Vanworth-Rogers reported at the meeting that 52 students at the middle school and 19 in the high school were in quarantine as well as one employee.

Remote learning has proven to be a struggle for both elementary and middle high school teachers. Vanworth-Rogers reported that 16 students at the middle school and 27 at the high school were on a remote learning schedule on Oct. 12. Jim Germany, assistant principal of the middle high school, said of all the remote learners only 15 were passing all their classes.

“The rest are failing most all classes,” Germany said. “We’re at the point that they need to make an adjustment on their part.”

Steiger said elementary school teachers have also seen low participation rates from students working remotely. As of Oct. 12, the school had 69 remote learners.