Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information
Ron Whitmoyer, District Superintendent
May 27, 2020 (2:30 AM)
Parent Letter from the Superintendent 5/27/2020
As we continue in the distance learning model for the remainder of this school year we know the challenges kids are facing emotionally and mentally as they experience the loss of interactions with their teachers and with their friends. Further, it is becoming clear that stress on the parents is also felt by their children and, although not consciously manifested, internally it stresses children in the home as well. We encourage you to be watchful for signs of mental anguish and stress that may have harmful effects on your children. Many resources are available to assist you if your child’s physical or mental health begins to decline or becomes worrisome. Act quickly by contacting our school counselors, your child’s teacher or other school staff. We can help by finding services in the community to avoid potential problems.
One of the terrible hardships faced by families during this crisis has been the reduction in work opportunities for the adults in the home. If you have been affected by a reduction in income or reduced work, we would encourage you to immediately contact the school to consider applying for breakfast/lunch assistance at school. By applying now, reduced price or free meals could be available to your student(s) in the fall once school resumes. The income qualifications on the forms rely on your CURRENT income. If you have had a change in income, now is the time to ask the building secretary to send you a free and reduced lunch application to complete and return to school. Not only does this help with your monthly expenses it also helps the school district to qualify for additional Federal financial assistance. Free breakfast/lunch will remain available like they are presently until mid August to all District residents under the age of 19.
The COVID - 19 restrictions are going to affect bussing this fall. At this moment we recognize that the school district will not be able to safely shuttle large numbers of students between schools. However, as support for students walking between schools because of the loss of the shuttle system there is a new sidewalk under construction that will provide kids with a safe and maintained walkway between EVMS and Eastgate. So this means there will now be a complete flat, safe, maintained and continuous walkway all the way from Prickly Pear School to Radley to EVMS and a new section to Eastgate School!
If you have questions or wish to complete the lunch form please contact your schools. We look forward to having your student(s) back on campus for the 2020-21 school year!
May 15, 2020 (11:00 AM)
Parent Letter from the Superintendent 5/15/2020
Thank you for your patience during this unprecedented emergency situation. I know you are working hard to try to keep your children’s safety and learning at heart. Please know that the school district teachers and administrative staff are hurting from not having your children here at school like we really want. It’s just not prudent at this time to be less careful.
Please know that we are doing everything in our power to vision what the future holds. We have been watching how the entire world and our own State and Country are responding to delivering education in schools. In spite of the greatest communication network ever known to man, we still, unfortunately, have very limited information on how many cases of COVID there will be in East Helena, Montana in August or how to safely operate a school system.
What we do know is that the Governor has restricted what we can do under the Phase 1 order. Essentially our hands are tied by the fact that we can have no more than 10 individuals in one area at one time. This makes it impossible for us to conduct school as normal without directly violating a State order with 20 and 30 kids in each classroom. We anticipate that we will move to Phase 2 in the not too distant future, but even then, all of the distancing orders will still apply. In Phase 2 we can have up to 50 kids in one area. However, since every building has more than 175 students and as many as 500 students we have to divide to comply with that order. We believe that in Phase 2 we can at least fill classrooms with closer to the normal number of kids and still be in compliance as long as we don’t come together in larger groups. Our surveys are trying to get your input on how many kids may attend school in August and how many parents will want their children to continue to remotely receive instruction. Survey results are indicating a growing number of people (>50%) are now willing to send their students to school as compared to three weeks ago (<50%).
But we are still struggling trying to figure out how to operate with less than 50 in a group. Such issues and questions still remain unknown like…. how will 2 classes of students move in the hallways in groups of less than 50 at a time, how will we provide kids with lunch in groups of less than 50 at a time, how will we handle or even be allowed to have recess since playgrounds are closed, how will we provide bussing with less than 50 kids on a bus and recommended to have 1 per seat when there are only 26 seats, and, and, and...
In attempting to get feedback from families with the surveys it is our attempt to gather input from families in small amounts so as not to overwhelm you or us with too much information. Each tidbit of information has a purpose to help us know what parents want and to answer a current pressing planning question. Each question gives us a glimpse of the unique needs and wants of our parents. All of these questions continue to allow us to make educated guesses at how we can thoughtfully return to school on August 26th. Be strong and be as tolerant as you can, this is very trying for all of us. We are working daily trying to predict the future, but it is not a very clear picture yet. We hope to better be able to send parents a more decisive layout of the August 26th start-up by mid-July. There are just endless ramifications of every decision.
One way that each family can help the school district to craft a vision for August is to continue to answer our surveys and to follow the health and social distancing recommendations. By practicing these guidelines at home, your students will be better prepared to act similarly at school. Thanks for your understanding the complexities of the planning with so many unknowns. We are doing our best to consider every option and implement appropriate precautions to build an excellent plan for August.
May 6, 2020 (4:00 PM)
School Closure Update 5/5/2020
Please follow the link below for an update regarding East Helena Public Schools continuing distance learning for the remainder of the school year.
April 28, 2020 (4:00 PM)
Parent Appreciation for Responding to the Survey
Dear Families of East Helena School Students,
Thank you for taking the survey regarding the School Impact from the Coronavirus over the weekend. We had an overwhelming response! From our latest records we had nearly 1,000 people reply out of the approximately 900 families in the school district.
Certainly you are wondering what information we were able to gather from the responses. The school board will look at the responses in more detail, but indeed there is much fear about the coronavirus and how it will impact families, especially those individuals with asthma and other health risks that make them more susceptible from complications from COVID 19. That question had our highest input.
Though not an overwhelming majority like the previous question, still a majority of respondents were worried about the loss of socialization for their children during the closure. The majority of parents feel like school closure is the best option, 77% favor full closure or a modified attendance schedule as we look at the end of this year and into the August 28th opening this fall.
Unfortunately we are seeing that only 14% of our families are taking advantage of the totally free lunch available daily at Radley and Eastgate school. Those lunches are free to ALL children 18 years old and younger each day and come with breakfast for the following morning.
Again, thank you for taking the time to complete the survey to help us with our decision making.
The administrative team
April 22, 2020 (4:00 PM)
Gov. Bullock Update 4/22/2020
Parents and Community Members,
East Helena Schools has always had the best interest of students at heart under all types of critical situations. With the Governor’s disclosure today of lifting some of the restrictions on the stay at home order and the eventual lifting of the order for school closures, your Board of Trustees and administrative staff will be working on plans to ensure the safety of all of our children, their families and our staff in light of this pandemic. Certainly, hasty decisions by your school district team would be inappropriate during such a crucial period. Keep watching the school district website, Facebook, emails and messaging from the school for up to the minute information as we examine the new orders by the Governor and the research on caring for the health and welfare of our students.
April 17, 2020 (9:00 AM)
School Closure Update 4/17/2020
Greetings from East Helena Public Schools! We hope this letter finds you and your family safe and in good health. Our nation, state, and community are in the midst of very challenging conditions that have significantly disrupted our previous sense of normalcy. We want to extend our appreciation and gratitude to all of you for your willingness to partner with us to keep the focus of our efforts on our most important assets, the 1300+ students of the East Helena Public School District.
Governor Bullock’s current public school closure extends through Friday, April 24 and is accompanied by a ‘shelter in place’ order. The probability that the current closure will be extended for an additional two weeks appears likely. Teachers, instructional tutors, and paraprofessionals have been working either on-site or remotely in preparing both hard copy and electronic remote learning materials for all students. The next round of materials will be available at each school beginning on the following day and time:
School Date & Time Eastgate Elementary Thur., April 16 11:00-4:00 Fri., April 17 8:00-3:00 Prickly Pear Elementary Already distributed Radley Elementary Monday, April 20, noon to 6:30, 8-4:00 4/21-4/23 East Valley Middle & East Helena High Schools Monday, April 20 noon - 4:00 PM*
*Note- EVMS/EHHS Packets are only necessary if you have no device or internet access. We can also deliver packets, call 227-7740 to arrange delivery.
Teachers will utilize the above distribution dates for new two-week materials disbursement and return work previously reviewed. Recently completed work can be left at the school site(s) at this time as well, to be distributed to appropriate staff for review.
When students are physically in attendance in classrooms, grading at each level is based on guided/independent practice, homework, student participation, projects, assessments, etc. During the current closure, the grading process used at each school site will undergo some modifications to take into consideration the extent to which adult assistance is available for each student, the reduced amount of direct contact with classroom teachers, the amount of technological resources available in the home as well as other family situations/conditions that may inhibit a student’s access to his/her education off-site.
All student work completed and returned either via hard copy or electronically will be reviewed by the appropriate staff member with feedback provided. Following the District’s remote learning closure plan approved by the Office of Public Instruction, our staff will be looking for indicators of proficiency on all returned work and noting the completion of the assignment in grade books. A consistent pattern of work completed at or above grade level proficiency levels may result in a quarter 4 or trimester 3 grade over and above what was reported on the previous report card. Thank you in advance for your patience as we work to establish a revamped grading system that remains flexible and attempts to account for these new challenges both you and your student(s) are now facing.
In closing, thank you for supporting your public schools in East Helena. The administrative staff remains in awe at the time and effort each staff member is putting forth to ensure that our students and their families receive any and all services needed and available. We miss each and every one of them and anxiously looks forward to the day when our halls and classrooms reverberate with the sounds of their return! Stay safe.
East Helena Public Schools Administrative Team
March 23, 2020 (1:00 PM)
School Closure Update 3/23/2020
Note to Parents and Guardians,
Re: School Closure Update March 23, 2020.
The School District would like to update you at this one week juncture in regards to the school closure situation. Please know that your EHPS staff has been tireless in their efforts in crafting a manner in which we can deliver instruction. Thank you for your patience as we work through unforseen hurdles as remote learning is put in place across the nation.
We recognize that communication challenges have and will continue to arise. If you would share an email with your children’s teacher(s) indicating the best time(s) and method to communicate for your student, we can strengthen this connection. If you have not received any form of communication from the classroom teacher, please contact your child’s school office for assistance.
- Eastgate - 227-7770
- Prickly Pear - 227-7720
- Radley - 227-7710
- EVMS - 227-7740
- EHHS - 227-7730
Our food service staff is preparing a free grab and go lunch and next morning’s breakfast daily for students. There are distribution sites at Radley and at Eastgate Schools that are open from 11:00 AM through 1:00 PM each weekday, excluding Spring Break. EVERY child under 18 can eat for free. If your child rides a bus, these meals are also available weekdays at your student’s bus stop, exactly four hours later than their regular morning boarding time.
The percentage of K-5 students that are following through with iReady Math is impressive and steadily on the rise! The loss of direct instruction time at school for students is unprecedented. We recognize the challenge put in front of many parents in arranging daycare coupled with the loss of teacher interactions and instruction.
As of Monday March 23, the school buildings will be locked. We encourage you to call ahead and make an appointment should you need building access or to speak to an employee. This will also be the case for the Central Office as well. Please dial (406) 227-7700 to discuss your need for assistance and Central Office staff will be more than happy to assist you.
Each District school is working to develop a dropbox system for students and parents to be able to return completed packets and share other pertinent information. Postal service mail remains a very good choice for delivering work back to the schools. All school mail arrives at PO Box 1280 East Helena, MT 59635.
For additional information on the health risks and appropriate practices, please consult this COVID-19 fact sheet from the CDC available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/share-facts-h.pdf.
Thank you for your cooperation and patience as we deal with this extensive disruption to our normal life. We hope that this pandemic will begin to lessen soon. However, we anticipate the current two week closure will be extended by Governor Bullock. By remaining strong and resilient, we will create great things in the wake of this cloud. I am very proud of my trusted staff and appreciative of your willingness to work with us to keep your children engaged in learning in this difficult time.
East Helena Schools Administrative Staff, Mr. McMahon, Ms. Miller, Mr. Murgel, Mr. Rispens, Ms. Stoltz and Superintendent, Ron Whitmoyer
March 17, 2020 (4:00 PM)
Update: Student Packets and Related Information
We appreciate your continued patience with our work to provide remote learning for students as was directed by our EHPS School Board of Trustees on Sunday. As part of the amazing work by your teaching and support staff, your children may have already received electronic communications giving them direction on how to access their education; or, you have been informed that student work packets will be available starting tomorrow. Student work packets will be available at each of the schools where your children attend as shown below:
Eastgate Elementary - Wednesday and Thursday, 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Prickly Pear Elementary - Wednesday and Thursday, 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Radley Elementary - Wednesday 12:00 to 4:00 PM, Thursday 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
East Valley Middle School - Wednesday 12:00 to 4:00 PM, Thursday 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
East Helena High School - Wednesday 12:00 to 4:00 PM, Thursday 8:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Limited Chromebooks will be available at Radley Elementary and East Valley Middle School on Wednesday, March 18th from 12:00 PM - 2:00 PM. Families will be required to read and sign a Checkout Form for District Technology stating the requirements and responsibility of the device as well as the Acceptable Use Policy. We ask that families consider their true need for a device as we want to ensure students that have no other available device are able to continue their education with their peers.
The East Helena School District will also be offering "Grab and Go" sack lunches on weekdays starting at 11:00 AM and continuing until 1:00 PM tomorrow through March 27 at Eastgate School and Radley School parking lots. There will be no sack lunches over Spring Break, which is being observed as scheduled, nor on the weekends. A very limited number of Chromebooks will be available for our neediest families starting tomorrow at noon (grades 3-9). Those will need to be checked out in the school offices following completion of the necessary paperwork.
It's imperative that parents communicate their most current contact information. Additionally, student contact information would be extremely helpful such as working phone numbers (as applicable) in order to be contacted directly by staff. Students and parents should be expecting phone calls from staff to help students with questions and/or completion of their school work. Librarians have made online E-Books available to students as well, so check for information from your librarians about that opportunity.
Bus route homes have been receiving phone calls to set up bus stop dropoff for Grab and Go lunches as well. If you have not received a call and your child is a bus student, please call us to check on the time for delivery at your bus stop (227-7700).
We have received information from Spectrum that they will install internet access in homes for two free months. Hookup fees may apply and if ongoing internet service is not desired after the two-month introductory period it is imperative that parents call and request a disconnect of the service. By not doing so, automatic recurring billing will be charged against your credit card. Parents can contact Spectrum at 844-488-8398.
Please know that your dedicated professional EHPS staff is at your service during this health pandemic and will be working diligently to continue student learning as optimally as possible.
As always, please contact your schools with any questions or to update contact information as we reach out to you and your EHPS student(s).
East Helena Schools Administrative Team and Superintendent Whitmoyer
March 16, 2020 (12:00 Noon)
Update: EHPS School Closure Information (Student Learning)
This morning your East Helena teachers arrived at work to put together learning opportunities for kids as we face this two-week closure and closure for the scheduled spring break.
The plan is to have learning packets, materials, and novels available for kids from their teachers to cover the 10 day period of lost instruction ready by Wednesday at noon. We will have learning packets and information on the website and teacher website pages where students can get their electronic learning materials, also by noon on Wednesday. Parents can come to each school on Wednesday afternoon to pick up student packets and in very limited quantities possibly check out a Chromebook*.
As we work through this extreme situation, know that your teaching staff has your children as a primary concern and are diligently working to minimize the impact on student learning from this closure.
Lunch and breakfast are being served today and tomorrow at Eastgate and Radley School for students. The scheduled hours are: 7:30 - 8:30 am for breakfast and 11:00 - 1:00 pm for lunch.
Starting on Wednesday, a grab and go sack lunch will be available for any person under the age of 18 for free in the front of Radley and Eastgate School between the hours of 11:00 am - 1:00 pm for lunch.
Parents are encouraged to contact the school that have no access to electronic materials for kids. Work packets will be made available that are printed and either available for pick up or that can be mailed home.
Please watch for further information on our website, e-alerts, Facebook posts and emails to stay informed about this rapidly changing situation. We do appreciate your patience as we navigate uncharted waters.
*More information to come.
March 15, 2020 (8:30 PM)
Immediate EHPS School Closure
Due to the declaration this afternoon from Governor Bullock, the East Helena Public Schools will be closed from Monday, March 16 through Friday, March 27 and then followed by Spring Break (March 30 – April 3).
The schools will be providing breakfast and lunch on Monday, March 16 and Tuesday, March 17 at Radley and Eastgate. EVMS will have breakfast only on Monday, March 16.
The school buildings will be open tomorrow for parents and students to collect learning materials and personal belongings for continued instruction from home. More details to follow in the coming days from your administration.
Thank you for your patience!
Ron Whitmoyer, Superintendent
March 14, 2020 (1:30 PM)
Information Update to East Helena Community
The intent of this letter is to keep our staff and families informed of the most recent and current information we have available regarding the coronavirus. While the symptoms of the coronavirus for the majority of people may be mild (especially for children), we do know that coronavirus can be very severe for a number of individuals; these patients may even require medical treatment. For that reason, on Friday superintendents from across the State including East Helena had a teleconference meeting with the Montana Office of Public Instruction to discuss the statewide implementation of precautions. It is important to note that the Montana Office of Public Instruction nor the Lewis and Clark County Health Department is recommending that we close schools at this time. Therefore, our schools remain open at this time.
However, we are using this opportunity to plan ahead and communicate with all of our families. There have been four confirmed coronavirus cases in Montana as of Saturday morning. This situation remains very fluid, with our schools receiving information daily and sometimes hourly. We will continue to meet with area school districts this week and our Lewis and Clark County Health Department because our communities are interconnected.
Guidelines for School Closure
In the event we have a confirmed case of coronavirus in or associated with a school in the East Helena area, we will work collaboratively with the local health officials to determine the next steps. Currently, our best information indicates that school closure for periods of less than 8 to 20 weeks has less impact on the spread of the disease than using good hygiene, sick students and staff resting at home and practicing targeted cleaning procedures. However, under limited severe situations, our plan may include closing impacted schools. A closure would:
- Give local health officials and school staff time to assess the exposure of the known case within the school and trace the person’s contact history;
- Allow school officials time to perform a thorough cleaning of the school, with particular attention to areas frequented by the known case;
- Provide time for public health staff, assisted by school staff, to identify and communicate with families of students or staff who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus due to an underlying health condition;
- Create time for the school to prepare for possible virtual learning or take-home work that would allow students who may miss a significant period of time (due to quarantine or underlying health issues) to be supported and continue their education; and,
- Develop a plan to provide for additional support as needed once the school re-opens.
Recommendations for Spring Break Travel
As spring break approaches, be aware that travel to some areas may result in restrictions for school attendance upon return. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued travel advisories for areas experiencing the coronavirus epidemic. Right now, the CDC is recommending that travelers avoid all nonessential travel to China, Iran, South Korea, and Europe.
You can check for updates at the following site:
Please note that:
- Any staff or a student returning from a CDC designated Level 3 location will be required to stay home for 14 days after returning to the United States. (These advisories can change on short notice, as the disease spreads. If staff or students travel to a location that is added to the list at the end of spring break, they will be held to the same standards.)
- Staff or students who return and are sick with a fever or cough or who have trouble breathing should call their health-care provider before seeking medical care in order to avoid spreading the disease to others in the medical setting.
- If a person has a respiratory infection and a fever after interacting with someone who recently traveled to an impacted area, he or she should call a health-care provider as soon as possible.
- We acknowledge that postponing or canceling plans can be inconvenient and difficult, but we are asking staff and students to re-evaluate spring break plans if they intend nonessential travel.
Recommendations for Nonessential Large Group Gatherings
The East Helena School District will continue to seek the advice of the Lewis and Clark County Health Department and continue to evaluate nonessential large group gatherings. The purpose of this evaluation is to slow the rate at which people get sick in order to prevent overwhelming local hospitals and the healthcare system (often referred to as “flattening the curve”).
We urge all staff, students, and community members to continue to follow the protocols recommended by healthcare professionals in order to protect yourself and prevent the spread of illness. Frequent hand washing and coughing or sneezing into elbows are the most widely accepted means of slowing the spread of the disease.
We will continue to communicate more information as it becomes available. Please continue to monitor the District’s webpage and other social media accounts for updates.
You may also find information on the Lewis and Clark County Health Department website at https://www.lccountymt.gov/health.html
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to work together to keep our staff, students, and community safe.
March 6, 2020
Information Update to East Helena Community
In response to the national health concern regarding the coronavirus, we are sharing the following information to assist in keeping our homes, schools, and community safe and healthy environments.
COVID-19 is a newly discovered coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. This virus can cause respiratory symptoms ranging from the common cold to severe pneumonia. Cases have now been identified in Washington State, but there are no confirmed cases in Montana. People at greatest risk are the elderly and those with existing health issues.
This virus spreads from person to person and is thought to mostly do this via respiratory droplets when coughing. The common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
To reduce transmission of airborne illnesses including COVID-19, the CDC recommends individuals and families follow everyday preventive measures:
- Voluntary Home Isolation: Stay home when you are sick with respiratory disease symptoms. At the present time, these symptoms are more likely due to influenza or other respiratory viruses than to COVID-19-related virus.
- Respiratory Etiquette: Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and then throw it in the trash can.
- Hand Hygiene: Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with 60%-95% alcohol.
- Environmental Health Action: Routinely clean frequently touched surfaces and objects.
Routine use of these measures by individuals and their families will increase community resilience and readiness for responding to an outbreak. For more information from the Center for Disease Control, please click on the following links:
While a new type of illness can be scary, we can protect our students, teachers, and the broader community by using these simple everyday actions that protect people from other types of respiratory viruses. Our teachers, school nurses, and staff are working carefully to encourage these simple and effective habits of frequent handwashing, covering every cough or sneeze, and cleaning classroom tables/surfaces frequently. This is important not just to help prevent the spread of coronavirus but to also help prevent the spread of other infections that can lead to staff and student illnesses and absences.
Some specific steps our district may or have already taken to address concerns are:
- Cleaning schools on a regular basis with added precautions to disinfect hard surfaces and areas that have high use.
- Working closely with other schools in our region, along with our local Lewis and Clark County Health Department, to determine best practices and possible conditions that could impact school schedules.
- Staying in close contact with the Office of Public Instruction and the State of Montana DPHHS. State information can be found at: https://dphhs.mt.gov/publichealth/cdepi/diseases/coronavirusmt
- Staying current on breaking news coming from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) directed at schools. You can find additional information at https://www.cdc.gov.
- Currently we are preparing to possibly offer virtual learning opportunities for 5th-9th grade students in the event of extended school absences from school as determined by health officials.
As more information becomes available, we will keep information on our website up to date.
Questions or Concerns? Student and staff health safety is our top priority at East Helena Public Schools. If you have a question, concern, or comment about any health or safety issue, please let us know by calling (406) 227-7700.