We have all heard and read the news about school districts across the state and nation struggling with opening schools during the COVID pandemic. As a 43-year retired educator, it goes without saying that the best place for our kids to be is attending school, face to face with a competent and caring teacher. The alarming statistics that began to be collected as the global pandemic progressed last year concerning the negative repercussions of kids not being in school was concerning to say the least. The social, emotional, and intellectual benefits of students being in school are far superior to any type of remote learning plan.
That is why I am grateful to the school board, administrators and staff of Kalispell Public Schools for taking the hard path last year and figuring out a plan to get our students back in school. The operational requirements and recommendations to make this happen were daunting, which is why many districts across the nation chose not to go down this path. With approximately 6,000 students attending KPS, our school leaders knew the stakes were high and they needed to figure out a plan to get our kids back in school starting in the fall of 2020. The easier route would have been to continue remote education and unfortunately face the negative effects of our students not being in school with their teachers and classmates.
In fact, Kalispell Public Schools is the only AA school district in the State of Montana that has been in school five days a week, for all schools in the district, since the beginning of the 2020-21 school year. As a grandfather with three granddaughters attending schools in the Flathead Valley, I am grateful to the dedicated school board members, administrators and staff that were willing to take this more difficult path and make this happen for the benefit of our kids living in the Flathead Valley.
As a result, great things are happening in our schools with face-to-face instruction and school activities slowly returning to normal. Having a freshman granddaughter attending Glacier High School, my wife and I have been able to support her in attending volleyball, basketball and tennis contests following the required face mask and social distancing requirements. We were more than thrilled to be able to do this even if it required these safeguards.
I know all of us, including school board members, administrators and staff, look forward to returning to normal pre-COVID conditions in our schools very soon. Until then I am grateful to everyone who did what was best for the kids in our valley this school year.
Mark Flatau was the superintendent for Kalispell Public Schools from 2014 to 2020.
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