UPDATE: Two Local Superintendents Recommend Remote Learning for Remainder of School Year

Boards in Kalispell, Whitefish will vote next week to approve recommendations that would keep school buildings closed

By Andy Viano
Whitefish High School on March 15, 2020. Montana Governor Steve Bullock ordered a statewide closure of schools on March 15 in an effort to contain the spread of novel coronavirus in Montana. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

The district superintendents in Kalispell and Whitefish are recommending that their schools remain closed to in-classroom learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year.

Heather Davis-Schmidt, the Whitefish School District superintendent, and her counterpart at Kalispell Public Schools, Mark Flatau, disseminated nearly identical messages to the public on Thursday afternoon. The school boards for both districts will make the final decision whether or not to approve the recommendations, with Whitefish’s board meeting Monday, April 27 at 4 p.m. and Kalispell’s the following day, April 28, at 6 p.m.

In their messages, both superintendents wrote that they would continue to follow the remote learning plans currently in place in both districts, measures that were implemented not long after schools across Montana were closed on March 16. Davis-Schmidt and Flatau came to the decision at least in part collaboratively, citing in their respective statements that discussions were held between superintendents throughout the valley and with the Flathead City-County Health Department.

On Wednesday, Gov. Steve Bullock allowed in-classroom learning to resume as early as Wednesday, May 7, but left the decision up to individual school boards, adding that districts would have to find “creative” ways to teach while still following social distancing recommendations.

“In order to (reopen), stringent requirements to keep students and staff safe would need to be in place, such as wearing masks, maintaining social distancing in classrooms (and) limiting groups to no more than 10,” Davis-Schmidt wrote in her statement. “Additionally, I am anticipating our local health department to make recommendations for even stricter limitations for Flathead County.”

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.