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Following OPI recommendation, remainder of Lincoln school year up for discussion

How Lincoln School will end its school year will depend on how the Governor's stay-at-home and school-closure directives are lifted and what the phased reopening of the state looks like. This will impact whether students continue distance learning through the end of the school year, if high school spring sports resume, and how schools handle graduation celebrations.

The Office of Public Instruction issued a memo April 9 advising schools to continue their distance learning plans through the end of the year, to ensure that if the directives were extended again, schools will have a plan in place. According to the Governor's office, school districts whose distance learning plans were submitted to and approved by their local boards would not be required to reschedule in-person instruction time and would continue to receive all state funding.

Because schools are under local control, when the directives are lifted and the state authorizes schools to re-open for in-person instruction, the final decision on how to finish out the school year will be up to the Lincoln School Board.

"When the Governor lifts the stay-at-home order, how we come back to school is a huge question," Lincoln School Superintendent Jennifer Packer said in an email. "Some would like us to come back right away, some would like us to keep on-line learning until the end of the school year. What we do has not been decided yet and all that I ask the community is for understanding and support for whatever the school board decides. We will be looking at what is the best for the health and safety of the students and the community."

The Lincoln School Board was expected to discuss the issue at their April meeting, which had been re-scheduled for Monday, Apr. 20.

The same OPI memo advised schools to consider alternative graduation ceremonies to the large-scale, in-person ones. Packer said, "It also is on the agenda for the Board to discuss."

The Montana High School Association met Apr. 13 to discuss spring sports activities. Executive Director Mark Beckman stated in a memo issued Apr. 14 that if in-person student instruction didn't resume by May 4, "spring activities will be cancelled."

According to the school's website, many activities, including drivers education and yearly standardized tests, have been placed on hold while schools wait for news about when and how the directives will be lifted.

Other activities, such as the Missoula Children's Theater and Junior High Track have been completely canceled for this year or moved to next school year, as in the case of the ACT.

The Lincoln School has received and applied for additional funding through the CARES Act.

"It will be greatly appreciated and will be utilized to improve on-line learning and technology," Packer stated in her email. "We will use it for sanitation equipment for the school and plus numerous other things. The CARES Act will help with some of the concerns that we have for losing enrollment and the amount of money we would NOT be getting due to families that have moved."

In addition, the school has applied for a new reading grant that would support interventions, teachers and paraprofessionals, and the literacy coach position. Packer added she hopes it "will allow for us to continue after school programs that the public so generously donated to the school to keep it running this year."


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