Along with the Blackfeet Tribe and Glacier County, Browning and Heart Butte schools are prepared and already coming to the aid of area schoolchildren. Meanwhile, they’re using the two-week closure mandated by Governor Steve Bullock to thoroughly clean their facilities while preparing and delivering meals to homebound kids around the Reservation.
Browning Superintendent Corrina Guardipee-Hall said, “The Browning School Board of Trustees went on record to accept Governor Bullock’s declaration and accepted my recommendation that Browning Public Schools close for at least 14 days and to also monitor the situation during that time and extend it longer if necessary. Browning Public Schools will continue to feed our students at the same sites we feed our students during the summers. No Employees will be required to work, but we will need volunteers to ensure our children get fed while school is not in session. If you are physically able and in good health and can help, please let us know.
“All schools and facilities will be closed: there will be no activities, no sports and no open gyms. Please be safe and remember, we care about all our students, staff, parents, community and the Blackfeet Reservation.”
Later, she added, “All BPS employees - Classified, Certified and Administration - will be paid for the two weeks. We are reminding them that if any Classified or Administrative staff do come in to help during this time, you will get personal leave for any hours worked. We thank everyone at this time for being understanding and knowing we still need to feed our 2,000 students. We will then reevaluate the situation in two weeks. Please go to Browning Elementary to help prep food bags and distribute by 8:30 am. Any other questions, please contact Lynne Keenan.”
Staffers at the food service program at Browning Schools were also upbeat about their preparedness. “I work at the Child Nutrition program for the schools, and we have a plan in place and are working on a more detailed plan so that we will be able to provide a breakfast and lunch to the kids, sack lunch style,” noted Zita Bremner before the closure. “We are applying for our summer lunch grant, and also submitting the waiver in order to continue receiving meal reimbursements so that we can provide these meals in the event of closures. We have 2,000 students in our district, so we are planning on having and ordering enough food to provide 2,000 for two meals per day.
“We have detailed inventory of all the school kitchens, perishables, etc.,” she continued. “And our director [Lynn Keenan] is really on top of it when it comes to knowing how many students will be served, and what needs to go in each lunch/breakfast. I’m thankful to work for someone who’s super knowledgeable in her area. I have no doubt that we will able to make sure our students are taken care of.”
BPS Board Vice Chair Wendy Bremner added, “We also have these things to consider: people live paycheck to paycheck, and over 200 people in our district are paid by the hour, not salaried. In addition, in our community there are single working parents who must be considered. On the other hand we have lots of grandparents raising children who are vulnerable and kids with asthma.”
Finally, Superintendent Guardipee-Hall noted that since the governor declared the school closures, Browning and Heart Butte will still receive full funding, and neither district will have to make up the days lost.