“Throughout this school year our teachers and staff have met the challenges we have been forced to face with a ‘will do’ attitude, and our students have followed instruction very well. This will be another test for us all, and we hope it is the last time we must take such a drastic measure,” stated Cut Bank Schools Superintendent Wade Johnson after announcing the temporary closure of the schools until Feb. 8.

 Johnson’s official announcement came on Tuesday, Jan. 26, after the number of active COVID-19 cases among students and staff hit 13, “with no real pattern or building affected more than another.” 

“Our administrative team met Tuesday morning (Jan. 26) along with school nurse, Frank Zuccala and Glacier County Health Nurse, Jenny Krapf, and we decided the best course of action for our students and staff was to temporarily close our schools,” explained Johnson. 

According to Krapf, approximately 100 students and staff were quarantined at that time. “Our main concern was that we went from one confirmed active case in one school on Jan. 21 to 11 confirmed cases by the start of the following week. The new cases were spread across all four schools, but not necessarily tied to each other and did not appear to be tied to any specific event or activity.”

Johnson continued, “We stayed in school Tuesday to allow teachers and students time to gather materials for the week away from school and closed our buildings on Wednesday and Thursday (Jan. 27-28) for maintenance personnel to clean and disinfect our buildings.”

This week, Feb. 1-5, Cut Bank’s elementary students are working on instructional packets which were sent home on Jan. 26. Where possible, the students will receive support from teachers, said Johnson. 

“Cut Bank Middle School and High School students will be conducting virtual class at regular bell times with attendance required, work graded, and students responsible for participation in classes,” he added.

The Cut Bank Schools board of trustees held a special meeting on Thursday, Jan. 28, and voted unanimously to implement a new online learning program for students who choose to complete school remotely. 

“Edgenuity is a program other schools have put in place for these circumstances and it has been very successful in our area,” said Johnson.  “Up to this point, our teachers have been working both with students in person, and with students online simultaneously with extra support given to online students after school. We have found this method to be unsustainable.”

 After consulting with other administrators, Johnson said the district’s administrative team has “determined our best path forward was to implement the Edgenuity program for remote learners in our district.”

 Remote learners will be informed how to access Edgenuity with support from the Cut Bank staff where needed prior to Feb. 8. The local school district will officially implement the Edgenuity program by Feb. 8, said Johnson. In class instruction is also slated to return to all schools on Feb. 8.

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