Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information
Ron Whitmoyer, District Superintendent
EHPS Board Special Meeting Decision on Mask Mandate
May 19, 2021
Families in the East Helena School District,
Tonight the East Helena School Board took action to rescind the mask requirement in schools that has existed since we started full day classes in August. This action came after long deliberation and a sincerely concerned School Board who grappled with the pros and cons of such a move. The current values and beliefs of the parents who advocated for the release of the students to once again see the expressions of adoration of their teachers and those that expressed serious concern about the transmission of COVID 19 still active in our community were both equally weighed and testimony closely considered. In the end the school board felt, through a split vote, that the best interest of the students was served by removing the requirement to wear a mask. Students will still be allowed to choose freely to wear a mask to protect themselves, but it will no longer be required. It’s important to note that all other means of slowing the transmission of the disease within the schools will be maintained throughout the end of the school year, including maintaining isolated groups of students in classrooms and cohorts, eating lunch in classrooms, restricting entrance to outsiders, screening students for signs of the infection, using separate play areas on the playgrounds, and other precautions. Thank you for supporting this difficult transition and working with your classroom teachers to provide a great education to all East Helena students.
Ron Whitmoyer, Superintendent
Parent Update on Masks
May 9, 2021
Dear Parents, Community Members, and Staff
Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures. The ‘mask order’, HB257, was signed into law by Governor Gianforte on Friday, May 7. The East Helena School District is working diligently to respond appropriately to this new development by seeking legal advice before proceeding, especially in light of the yet unsigned status of HB 435 which provides legal protection for public schools. As always, East Helena Schools will act in the most responsible manner possible to ensure the safety of the students, staff, and community. Since the school district currently has a mask requirement in all East Helena School buildings as a preventative measure to curtail the spread of COVID, we will continue with the mask requirement until we receive a legal opinion on the effect of HB257 on Montana public schools.
Please join us in helping make this a painless process by giving the School District time to react appropriately. There are still many questions about how our insurance company and legal team will advise us regarding this new law. Until we have made an educated decision, please continue to wear a mask in all EHPS school district buildings.
Parent Update on COVID Cases
January 22, 2021
Please bear with us as we scale back our barrage of notices to our East Helena families about recent positive cases of COVID in the school district. On Tuesday this week, we were notified that an EVMS student, and then on Wednesday an EHHS student, had tested positive for COVID 19. In each case multiple close contact students were sent home.
As always, our best chance of avoiding the spread of COVID is to make the decision to have the whole household stay home when anyone is sick, or even more importantly, when anyone in the home is being tested.
Thanks for your help.
Parent COVID Case Update
January 15, 2021
In an effort to keep you informed about recent positive cases of COVID in the school district, Wednesday afternoon we were notified that one student at East Valley Middle School tested positive with an active case of COVID-19. Multiple close contacts in the classroom of students at EVMS and two teachers had to be sent home to be protective of others in the buildings.
As we continue to work through these cases we have found that when a parent, student, or other household member is being tested and the children in that family stayed home from school while testing proceeded, spread to others was dramatically decreased. As we continue to use this protocol, we again thank parents for helping us avoid the spread of COVID by making the decision to have the whole household stay home when anyone is sick or being tested.
Your cooperation is appreciated by not only the school district but by all of the East Helena students and families.
East Helena Administrative Staff, and
January 8, 2021
Scheduled Student Drop Off Times
Dear Parents and Guardians,
East Helena Public Schools principals and staff would like to remind all families to only drop off students at each building’s specific time. In order to maintain the health and safety of both students and staff, students are not allowed to group outside the building prior to class, but rather must go directly to their classroom upon arrival.
School Earliest Arrival Time
Eastgate 8:00 AM
Prickly Pear 7:55 AM
Radley 7:50 AM
EVMS 7:55 AM
EHHS 8:05 AM
As we continue to follow proper student drop off times along with protocols for screening, wearing masks, and staying home when anyone in the household is sick, we can continue to avoid the spread of COVID-19 to your children and other staff. Your cooperation is appreciated by not only the school district but by all East Helena students and families.
January 3, 2021
Parent New Year Update and COVID Protocols
Happy New Year!
Over the Holiday Break, we were notified that there were a couple of additional staff and students that reported testing positive with COVID-19. Thankfully, due to the long break, we have no new close contacts to report and we have the ability to welcome back students in record numbers.
As we continue to work through the COVID challenges, I need to remind you that the protocols we have in place were set by the School Board and approved by the County. The School District will continue to comply with the plan, Board directives, and Lewis and Clark County Health orders. Students and staff will all be required to wear a mask while in the school buildings as part of our ongoing protocols. Similarly, students will continue to have their temperature scanned and be screened about how they feel.
When a parent, student, or other household member is ill or being tested for COVID, it is crucial that the children in the family stay home from school until the test results are known. This practice has shown tremendous success in containing the potential spread of the disease. Additionally, this practice protects the other children in the school district and your neighbors from being needlessly restricted from attending school. Please contact your principal, or either of the school nurses to share information or have questions answered about these practices and being safe.
As we continue to use these protocols: screening, wearing masks, and staying home when anyone in the household is sick, we can continue to avoid the spread of COVID - 19 to your children and other staff. Your cooperation is appreciated by not only the school district but by all East Helena students and families.
Parent COVID Cases Update
December 16, 2020
Our goal has been to keep parents informed throughout the year about recent positive cases of COVID in the school district. Today, we were again notified that there are two students at East Valley Middle School and two staff members at Radley School that have tested positive with active cases of COVID-19. Numerous close contacts in two classrooms of students at EVMS and also numerous students at Radley School had to be sent home to be protective of others in the buildings.
As we continue to work through these cases we have found that when a parent, student, or other household member is being tested that when the children in the family stayed home from school that potential spread was dramatically decreased. The text message to all parents Sunday outlines our most effective way to fight the spread of this disease. As we continue to use this protocol, we again ask parents to help us avoid the spread of COVID by making the decision to have the whole household stay home when anyone is sick, or even more importantly, when anyone in the home is being tested.
Your cooperation is appreciated by not only the school district but by all of East Helena students and families.
December 14, 2020
Please bear with us as we continue to notice our East Helena families about recent positive cases of COVID in the school district. Late yesterday and early today we were again notified that there are three students, one at Eastgate and two at Radley that have tested positive. Up to 9 close contacts and two classrooms of students had to be sent home.
In most of our recent cases, other children could have avoided contact if, when a parent or other household member was being tested that the children in the family stayed home from school. The text message to all parents yesterday asked for cooperation in keeping students home when this situation arises. Our best chance of avoiding the spread of COVID is to make the decision to have the whole household stay home when anyone is sick, or even more importantly when anyone in the home is being tested.
Your cooperation is appreciated by not only the school district but by all of the 1,500+ East Helena students and their parents.
December 10, 2020
The East Helena School District was recently notified that there is a student at EHHS and one at Prickly Pear Elementary School that attended school and then was tested positive for COVID. We are in the process of doing contract tracing, excluding students this morning and requiring them to isolate. As always, in the interest of caution, the close contact students are being sent home or being asked to stay home while more contact tracing continues. The East Helena School District wishes to again emphasize that the vigilance of parents to keep students home when anyone in the family or household is not feeling well or is considering going to be tested will keep the other students and staff at school safe. Students can return upon the family member's or student's own negative test results once the symptoms have passed and there is a lack of fever for 24 hours or according to Health Department Orders.
We have had a large number of successes containing the disease spread recently where students or parents are waiting for test results and parents kept students home. These numerous occurrences have successfully avoided the infection from reaching the school. This practice of keeping students home when any household member is sick or being tested was reinforced by the Health Department yesterday in our conversations with them.
As the number of cases of the virus remains high locally, we ask that you be very cautious about preventing the spread by minimizing outside contacts. Communicating with the school and keeping students home at the first signs of illness in any household member being tested will help us prevent this from spreading unnecessarily. If you have any symptoms or concerns please contact the school secretary and/or our school nurses, Kaylee Baeth, R.N., and Natalie Tocas, R.N. as soon as possible.
Your assistance in being extra vigilant about keeping the schools informed and safe is much so very much appreciated. We will continue to update you with new information as it becomes available.
East Helena Schools Administrative staff, Nurses, and
December 7, 2020
The East Helena School District continues its vigilance to track and isolate individuals where a student, family member, or a staff member is sick, being tested, or has been in contact with COVID. This morning we were notified that there is a student at EHHS and one at Radley School that has tested positive. We are in the process of doing contract tracing, excluding students this morning or requiring them to isolate. As always, the close contact students, in the interest of caution, are being sent home or being asked to stay home while more contact tracing continues.
We have had a series of unnecessary incidents recently where students or parents are waiting for test results before students stay home from school. This is a very dangerous practice and has caused students to be unnecessarily excluded from school. We are asking parents to keep their children home to avoid exposing others at the very first signs of illness of ANYONE in the home, not only their children but also parents and adults in the home. When anyone in the home is not feeling well or has a temperature, we would ask that everyone stay home until negative test results confirm it is not a COVID illness and you are sure the illness has passed for 24 hours without symptoms or fever. It is imperative that if anyone in the household is being or has been tested for COVID, that all students stay home until a negative COVID test result is obtained. This prevents the disease from being spread unintentionally.
As the number of cases of the virus remains so high locally, we ask that you be very cautious at preventing the spread by minimizing outside contacts. Communicating with the school and keeping students home at the first signs of any student or parent illness, or household member being tested for COVID, will help us prevent this from spreading unnecessarily. If you have any symptoms or concerns please contact the school secretary and/or our school nurses, Kaylee Baeth, R.N., and Natalie Tocas, R.N. as soon as possible.
Your assistance in being extra vigilant about keeping the schools informed and safe is much appreciated. We will continue to update you with new information as it becomes available.
East Helena Schools Administrative staff, Nurses, and
November 30, 2020
The East Helena School District continues its vigilance to track and isolate individuals where a family member is sick, being tested, or has been in contact with COVID. This morning we were notified that there is a student at EHHS that has tested positive. We are in the process of excluding students this morning, but because of the five-day holiday break, we will have some built-in isolation. As always the close contact students, in the interest of caution, are being sent home or being asked to stay home while more contact tracing continues until we are able to determine that they are safe to return to school.
We are asking parents to be especially watchful for the first signs of illness, not only with their children but also with parents and adults in the home. If anyone in the home is not feeling well or has a temperature, we would ask that everyone stays home until you are sure the illness has passed for 24 hours after the last symptoms or fever. If anyone in the household has been tested for COVID, we ask that all students stay home until a negative COVID test result is obtained.
As the number of cases of the virus continues to increase locally within the community, we ask that you be even more attuned and cautious at preventing the spread by minimizing outside contacts that could expose you and others to the disease. Communicating with the school at the first signs of any student or parent illness, or household member being tested for COVID, will help us prevent this from spreading unnecessarily. If you have any symptoms or concerns please contact the school secretary and/or our school nurses, Kaylee Baeth, R.N., and Natalie Tocas, R.N. at your very earliest convenience.
Thankfully we were able to return to onsite learning at Radley School today following the isolation of over 15 staff members who were being tested. Only 4 staff actually contracted the disease but the loss of that many staff members until test results were known made it impossible to find enough substitutes with our unprecedented shortage. If you know people interested in being a substitute teacher, a full-time paraprofessional, custodian, or bus driver, the school district is hiring every day! Just stop by the Central Office to pick up an application or email us and we will assist you in applying!
Your assistance in being vigilant about keeping the schools informed and safe is much appreciated. We will continue to update you with new information as it becomes available.
East Helena Schools Administrative staff, Nurses, and
November 15, 2020
The East Helena School District in the last 72 hours has been notified that two teachers tested positive for COVID-19 and several others are being tested or not feeling well at Radley School. As a result, we are too short-staffed to deliver in-person instruction at Radley until after Thanksgiving. All other schools are in operation during this time period since this situation is localized to Radley School.
Your assistance in being vigilant about keeping the schools informed and safe is much appreciated. We will continue to update you with new information as it becomes available.
East Helena Schools Administrative staff, Nurses, and
September 25, 2020
In keeping with my ongoing efforts to keep parents and staff informed in regards to COVID-19 and its effect on East Helena Public Schools as soon as possible, while following all applicable HIPAA regulations, I want to inform you that on September 24 at 6:45 pm I was appraised that there was a new case of COVID involving a single EHPS student. As has been past practice, the East Helena School District is letting you know that a student has recently tested positive for COVID-19.
As is our normal procedure, students and staff identified as close contacts have or will soon be notified and isolated until the extent of the illness has been determined. Also, the district is having all students from the affected classroom stay home for 24 hours while we continue to monitor the health of the other identified close contacts. According to the Lewis and Clark County Health Department, the District's policies of social distancing, frequent hand sanitizing and wearing masks continues to be instrumental in limiting the exposure to staff and students. Since the first symptoms appeared, the parents have held the child out of school and were, and continue to be, in contact with the school. The vigilance of parents whose children are exhibiting symptoms of an illness by keeping them home and seeking medical assistance continues to be our best chance to contain this disease. The cooperation of these parents has been helpful to the school nurses and staff to provide the very best care in this situation.
Please note that transmission is unlikely provided there was no contact, for more than 15 minutes, in close proximity to an active case of COVID -19. It is still recommended that any person who feels sick or ill stay home until all fever and symptoms have passed for at least 24 hours and seek out their medical provider for specific instructions.
The School District is in contact with the Lewis and Clark County Health Department and reviewing the Centers for Disease Control guidance to complete cleaning the affected parts of the school and other related facilities. The District School nurses and school administrators continue to monitor the situation and will provide further information as appropriate.
East Helena Superintendent
August 19, 2020
Parent Letter from the Superintendent
As the school year is about to begin here are a few pointers for making this a successful year. The plan that was approved by the School Board and discussed with the L & C County Health Department continues to be a workable base that is being adjusted at each building. You can expect to be contacted by your principals with additional information about the start of school that begins on August 26th.
Parents, teachers, staff, and administration will continue to work together to help our students with all aspects of learning. including how to wear a mask. One idea that can help students be successful in school is to ask them to wear a mask at home when they are reading, video gaming or doing other activities that they enjoy to help us teach the necessity of wearing masks. That small bit of assistance can go a long way to bridge the challenge of wearing masks at school.
Parents of bus students should again review the requirements we have had to establish to provide physical distancing on the bus. The link to the School Board adopted plan is available at this link: https://www.ehps.k12.mt.us/cms/lib/MT01000580/Centricity/Domain/330/DISTRICT%20START%20UP%20PLAN.pdf
Some parent questions have prompted the additional information and clarifications that follow:
Distance Learning Forms are due by August 19th. To get the Distance Learning Application Form, go to the front page of our website at www.ehps.k12.mt.us
Additionally, in the case of a possible COVID 19, our school nurses and administration will work with the L & C County Health Department who will take the lead in determining how to act on quarantines and contact tracing. The district will follow local county health department directives and guidance as to how we will communicate with parents under current health information privacy laws (HIPPA). It should be recognized that each case or situation will be different and therefore must be handled independently of other situations.
Band will be very limited this year due to class size and instruments that have the potential to blow air particles around the room. A recent nationally recognized organization has posted some guidelines regarding band and choir that is being reviewed in preparation for having modified band and choir classes.
Lunch fee subsidies or waivers are available. The stresses put on families during the Coronavirus outbreak has taken a toll on family income in a lot of our family households. The district is here to help with making lunches more affordable to parents if you will take the time to fill out an application for assistance. Please take the time to simply fill out the linked East Helena Public Schools electronic application for free and reduced-price meals for the USDA's National School Lunch & School Breakfast Programs.
This interactive application will guide you through the application process.
You cannot save and return to this application after you have started it. You will receive an application number for reference once you have submitted the application. You will need to provide information regarding DOBs, grades, schools, and income information for children and adults in your household, as well as case numbers for SNAP, TANF, or FDPIR assistance programs. When you are ready to apply, click this Get Started button to begin.
If you would like to apply using the paper application, you can print it out, complete it, and then return it to us at 226 East Clinton Street, East Helena, MT, 59635.
Lunch Program Manager
We are doing a limited amount of East Helena High School tours the week of September 8, 9 & 10. If you are interested, there is registration for public tours. You can send out this link and anyone with the link can sign-up. Each individual must sign up. Families must sign-up each member individually.
General Tour – Tuesday, September 8, 4:00-5:45 pm (Tours depart every 15 minutes, 8 time slots total, last tour departs at 5:45 pm, 14 max attendees, plus 1 tour guide=15)
Anyone that signs up must fill in an email and phone number. Mask information is included in the description. We hope to send a reminder email prior to each tour. On the day of the tour, the tour guides will be provided with a list so they can check-in those that show up and make sure they are in the proper group/tour time.
The latest School Opening Plan and a Statement from the school board can be accessed from this link:
Thanks for your support of the East Helena Schools.
East Helena Public Schools
We have been advised today, August 12th during the 2:00 pm press conference with the Governor, that face shields are considered face coverings and will be allowed as part of the order and the school district requirements.
August 7, 2020
Parent Letter/Survey/Draft Plan from the Superintendent
Dear Parents and Community Members,
The East Helena School District continues to work on a school startup plan that uses the best research on how to be as preventive of the spread of contagions as possible in a school setting. There are still many details to work out as we adjust plans daily. Everything is based on our current status in Phase 2 and the order to wear face masks when we cannot physically distance at least 6 feet apart. The operations of the district are founded on CDC, Lewis & Clark County Health Department, OPI and the State of Montana safety recommendations to educate the students in an environment that promotes good hygiene, safety practices and disease prevention. Should the CDC, Governor or the L & C County Health Department provide additional direction, the school district is prepared to quickly communicate to parents and to change instruction within a very short amount of time to adjust to any new directives.
Below is a very rough outline of the plan for operation of the schools in the current Phase 2 scenario. As you reflect on this new information please help us yet again to narrow down some of the variables that will drive our startup planning.
Click here to access the latest school survey.
And thank you for your patience and understanding during this tumultuous time.
Draft District School Start-Up Plan
The start of this new school year is a change from the normal start in the last few years. This pandemic has changed the way that the state and the country do business, and so will that become apparent in the East Helena Schools. Though each school will have its own unique issues in providing safety-minded practices, in general, however, the district will implement safety measures as stated here to minimize the spread of all contagions, but targeted at the COVID 19 pathogen.
Please be aware that though these plans are current, that the ever-changing landscape suggests a need for flexibility and understanding. Please be patient and take great care to do your part to make this workable and protective of the health and safety of our students and staff.
Phase II EHPS School openings under the current Governor’s Order:
- Under Phase II the schools will open on August 26th with in-person classroom instruction.
- Distance learning instruction will be an option for some students as appropriate and approved using the Parent Distance Learning Request Form
- Current planning is subject to change from the school district or by order of the Governor or County Health Department.
Student expectations and limitations:
- Face masks will be required of all students and staff in most settings when optimal social distancing cannot occur or when medically fragile or immunocompromised students or staff are present.
- Students are expected to provide their own preference of appropriate face mask as part of their regular school supplies.
- Teachers will work with students to routinely and regularly wash their hands or use hand sanitizer in the classrooms.
- Teachers and other staff will conduct temperature checks of all students daily along with asking screening questions.
- Students will be asked to use their own school supplies and not “share” as has been the practice in the past.
Students exhibiting flu-like symptoms will:
- Students exhibiting flu-like symptoms that may or may not include a temp of 100.4 or higher will be sent home.
- Staging areas for symptomatic or sick students are established at each school.
- Parents will be asked to pick up their students quickly that is found to have a temperature over 100.4 degrees or exhibiting symptoms. Link to Symptoms.
- The student should not return to school until they have been cleared by the school nurse who will be in contact with the County Health Department.
Grouping and Scheduling
- Students will be assigned to a “cohort” or team of 2 teachers in the elementary schools
- High school and middle school students will use an extended period block schedule to minimize contact with other students.
- High School and Middle School students will go immediately to their morning block class instead of gathering in homerooms.
- All Students will be assigned entrance doors by cohort and asked to social distance when entering and exiting the buildings.
- Physical distancing for all students will occur whenever possible and appropriate to the activity.
- All students will be dismissed on a staggered system from the buildings.
- Many hallways, when feasible, are being marked for directional traffic.
- Some student events, where the adequate physical spacing between seats and rows can be maintained, may occur in limited situations.
Parents are asked to take precautionary steps to ensure student and staff safety:
- Parents should closely monitor student wellness to watch for symptoms of COVID 19. Link to Symptoms.
- In particular, checking each morning for a fever of 100.4 or higher
- Having students sanitize or wash their hands before leaving for school.
- Question your child about how they feel before they leave for school.
- Keep your child at home if they are sick or exhibiting symptoms of an illness.
- If a student exhibits symptoms or has been potentially exposed to COVID 19, then they must stay home from school and they should seek medical attention.
- The student may not return to school until they have been cleared by a medical professional and/or the County Health Department.
- If you, or your medical professional, believe that your child may be exhibiting symptoms or had exposure to COVID 19, you should also contact the L & C County Health Department Nurse at 457-8900.
Transportation and Busing:
- Parents are being encouraged to transport students to and from school whenever possible to decrease the number of riders on buses.
- Unfortunately, the shuttle bus option for students before and after school has been discontinued due to crowding and limiting close contact in large groups.
- As staff and time allow, a walking shuttle group may be an option at the end of the school day between Radley and Eastgate.
- Only students assigned to a bus route will be allowed on a bus.
- Buses are being limited to 24 family groups per bus.
- Families of children will be required to sit in one seat on the bus.
- Single students without siblings will be assigned to one seat.
- Students will be required to wear masks
- Students will be screened at the door of the bus with questions about how they are feeling before being allowed to enter the bus.
- Parents should wait at the bus stop until the bus pulls away with your child in case there is evidence of exposure to COVID or the student has been declined transportation due to symptoms of illness.
- Students who refuse to wear a mask on the bus will not be allowed to ride.
Access to the buildings by parents and other adults will be limited:
- In order to protect our medically fragile and immunocompromised students and staff members limited access to the buildings will be maintained.
- Under the current Phase II scenario parents and other visitors will be expected to remain at the office area and not allowed in the hallways beyond the office
- Parents and visitors are expected to wear a mask while in the building, immediately upon entering and throughout being present in the building.
Large Gatherings and Assemblies:
- Assemblies, open houses, performances have all been postponed or canceled as a result of Phase II restrictions. Once we feel it is safe or we move to Phase III these restrictions may change.
- The cafeteria will be only used by individual cohorts in assigned areas or as social distancing allows.
- Lunch will be served in individual classrooms or cohorts.
- When space allows, cohorts may be allowed an assigned playground area for morning recess, lunch recess, afternoon recess, or instruction as space and scheduling make possible.
- Students arriving in the morning are being asked to head to their classrooms upon arrival after 7:55 am or as soon after as the school doors open.
- There will not be supervision on the playgrounds and parents and students are asked to not arrive at school prior to the school doors opening.
- Some student events, where the adequate physical spacing between seats and rows can be maintained, may occur in limited situations.
- Hallway traffic will be one way whenever possible.
- Student Lockers are not being offered, so a sturdy backpack is being suggested as part of the school supply list in middle school and high school.
- Procedural expectations will be taught within the content classes to accommodate physical distancing and safe practices.
- When space and time allow, cohorts may be allowed an assigned playground area for morning recess, lunch recess, and afternoon recess.
- Physical exercise and recess time will be coordinated when possible by teachers in cohort groups.
Meals and Cafeteria
- Student meals will be served in cohort classrooms.
- Special effort is being made to provide variety and nutritious hot and cold meals to students in the classroom.
- Routines and procedural expectations will be taught to accommodate physical distancing and safe practices.
- Students and staff will be required to wear face coverings during the classroom serving time and during preparation.
- Staff will maintain the cleanliness of tables and seats between meal periods. Students and staff will maintain food allergy awareness and protocols
- Transition to service in the cafeteria will take place as safe practices can facilitate individual service.
- The District will post signs and floor markings to encourage physical distancing and safety precautions.
- The District will limit the occupancy of events to follow the current State or County Health Officials guidelines.
- Events may be staggered, offered with limited viewership, or canceled. The District may require attendance sheets or seating charts for events to assist with contact tracing. The District may require Health Screening for all those in attendance. Face masks and coverings may be required for all those in attendance, depending on the event and venue. Coaches, supervisors, and building facilitators are responsible for securing and then disposing of health screening forms, when applicable, for the length of time designated by health officials. Hand sanitizing stations will be available at events. Students, faculty, staff, and approved visitors should follow the expectations of the District which promotes healthy habits and reduce the potential spread of the COVID-19 virus within our community.
- Organizations and groups using the facility will be limited and require special approval of the superintendent or designee. All organizations will be required to follow District expectations and safety guidelines. Although we are not sanctioned under the Montana High School Association, we will utilize their safety practices if we decide to offer athletics this school year. More information will be available as updated. https://www.mhsa.org/covid.
Educational Delivery of Face to Face Learning
- The District will provide face-to-face learning in a traditional school setting with the modifications, protocols, and requirements put into place for student/staff safety.
- The accommodations and remediation for students who need support are being addressed in preparation for school reopening.
- The expectations of our classroom teachers have been adjusted in order to provide the best educational experience possible given the current circumstances.
Educational Delivery of Distance/Remote Learning
- We will make arrangements to provide full-time remote opportunities to students and families who require this model of instruction and will utilize district emergency COVID-19 Board Policy 1908 as a guide. Because of the staffing needs for remote learning, students and families are asked to make a quarter/trimester or semester-long commitment to this endeavor.
- EHPS has established a protocol for enrolling in remote learning that includes:
- Parents must complete a remote learning request form to receive permission for students to participate in off-site instruction;
- This contract will need to be signed along with expectations outlined for parents and students;
- Grades may be altered and be assigned for remote learning courses as pass/fail based on proficiency learning criteria
- If a student has an active 504 Plan or IEP, the district will help determine if the accommodations and support can be delivered remotely or will need to be modified.
Should Phase I be ordered by the Governor:
- Under Phase I the schools will send students home to immediately to begin Distance Learning
- Limited Chromebook or iPad checkout can occur with an application and certification that there is good internet access at home
- School hours will be observed for Distance Learning instruction and access to staff
- A more rigorous and high-performance instructional system will be instituted using Google Classroom as the base platform.
- Student assessment and grading will be ongoing and based upon proficiency in accomplishing the goals of the school district adopted curriculum.
- Limited student access to schools will continue for the highest need students on a case by case basis.
Our plan was created utilizing the following plans as guidance:
Office of Public Instruction http://opi.mt.gov/Re-opening-Schools
Governor’s Plan https://covid19.mt.gov/Portals/223/Documents/Education%20Final.pdf
Academy of Pediatricians https://services.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novelcoronavirus-covid-19-infections/clinicalguidance/covid-19-planning-considerations-return-toin-person-education-in-schools/
CDC Reopening Schools https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/reopening-schools.html
July 16, 2020 (3:30 PM)
Parent Letter from the Superintendent 7/16/2020
The Coronavirus pandemic continues to evolve and challenge us in our planning for the 2020-21 school year. As of last evening, the Governor has made a new order that indoor public places require the wearing of a mask to be in the building. If the Governor’s mandate is still in effect when we return to school on August 26, 2020, we will be requiring students and staff to wear face masks while at school and on school buses.
We wanted to take a quick break from this beautiful Montana summer to remind parents of our planning for the 2020-21 school year. Of course, as this dynamic situation unfolds, all plans are subject to change, but as of the date of this letter, all students are invited to attend school as scheduled this fall. We will offer remote learning for students that have medical and family reasons for not being in attendance. With few exceptions, school attendance is in the best interest of student learning. COVID-19 considerations will require some significant changes to the school day. Buses will run their routes, but we have to limit the number of riders on buses. The need to limit the mixing and exposure of students as much as possible will require us to eliminate the shuttle bus service that we have offered in the past. Only route-specific students will be allowed on buses before and after school and will be assigned to one family group to a seat. Brothers and sisters will be asked to sit in the same seat with each other but all others will have to sit one to a seat. We are aware that some families depended on shuttle buses, so we are glad that there are now sidewalks or a very well maintained trail between ALL of the East Helena Schools. Students can walk on a sidewalk from any school to another safely.
As we fine-tune our plan, here are some other planning ideas for parents to be considering in minimizing the risk of exposure for our students and staff:
- Parents should assess their child’s health and wellness each day prior to sending children to school and have them wash their hands,
- Teachers will ask wellness questions and check temperatures each day before starting class,
- If a child becomes ill at school, he or she will need to be picked up right away,
- Students will be asked to use hand sanitizer and/or wash hands frequently throughout the day,
- There will likely be pick up and drop off locations assigned by class or grade at each school,
- Pick up and drop off time windows will be narrower than in the past - expect 15 minutes before and after school as the appropriate window for drop off and pick up,
- Before or after school tutoring/enrichment classes cannot be offered until the rate of spread and active infection in our area has declined significantly,
- Middle school and high school students should expect a block schedule that reduces the number of classes and transitions during the day,
- Due to restrictions on cafeteria usage, most, if not all students will be eating lunch in classrooms,
- Some classes, such as PE and band/choir may look radically different than in years past,
- We will be following MHSA and County health guidelines regarding sporting events, travel, and spectators.
Certainly, this has many challenges, but you are accustomed to the school district erring on the side of caution for the sake of our students.
It’s with much sadness that Principal Jill Miller has decided to move on and pursue other interests. She was heartbroken to leave the children and the community that she had served for more than 20 years.
We are excited to introduce to you our new Eastgate and Prickly Pear Principal, Brandon Crusat. Brandon comes to us from Idaho where he served as a distinguished principal in a larger school district. He is very excited to bring his years of experience as a principal to this great community and our amazing kids.
Thanks for your assistance in making this new school year a success for ALL students.
June 9, 2020 (4:30 PM)
Parent Letter from the Superintendent 6/9/2020
At the School Board Meeting on Monday night the Trustees heard of our planning for student instruction starting August 26, 2020. Pending no change to the Phase 2 state alert, it is the intention of the School Board to bring students back to their school buildings for instruction. However, the instruction will be delivered in a very different environment than when the students left on March 13th. The district will follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), L & C County Health Department, OPI, and the State of Montana safety recommendations to educate the students in an environment that promotes hygiene, safety practices, and disease prevention.
More directly, the schools are working on tentative plans to create schools within a school. The current thought is to organize grade levels into groups of two teacher teams throughout the Pre-K to 5 grades. These teaching teams would be less than 50 students in total. The students in each team would have common recess times as well as drop off and pick up areas, a.k.a quadrants. Phase II status would also result in the closure of school cafeterias with all meals consumed in classrooms. Frequent hand washing and sanitizing would take place in classrooms. Though face masks can not be required according to Board Policy, they are encouraged by the schools. Using separate building exit and entry points by assigned ‘cohort’ or teaching team will also be a common practice. Social distancing will be promoted.
In middle school and high school, a challenge we face is minimizing passing time between classes. The administration has devised a block schedule that could significantly reduce the risks due to the close proximity of kids passing in the hallway. In our current tentative plan we are exploring a morning block and an afternoon block each day. Students would arrive at school in the morning and immediately go to their first-period class on the first day of the week. They would attend class first period all morning until lunchtime. Using a creative movement system in shifting from morning block to afternoon block, students would go to the 2nd period in the afternoon, where they would remain until dismissal time. Then, on the 2nd day of the week, students would go to third-period class in the morning and 4th period in the afternoon. This pattern would continue each day until the 7th period is on the morning of the 4th day and the whole pattern would start over with the 1st period that afternoon.
In this design, students would get ALL of their regularly scheduled classes including electives like welding, culinary arts, photography, creative arts, etc. Additionally, once the all-clear order from the Governor is announced that moves us to Phase III, we can quickly transition back into the normal 7 periods per day schedule complete with lunch.
The district will also prepare for a possible Phase II A week and B week schedule as another option should more extensive restrictions suddenly be required. In the event that the Phase is changed back to Phase I, the district will immediately return to distance learning once again. If Phase 3 arrives prior to August 26, we will cautiously return to the regular school day we have known for the last several years.
The district will offer a very limited distance learning option for students who have identified significant health risks or elderly family members living in the home. Distance learning will be much more rigorous than previously offered and will have required attendance and graded work with high expectations. Grading will be more detailed and require a more robust demonstration of learning on the part of the student than what was required this spring.
As you reflect on this new information please help us yet again to narrow down some of the variables that will drive our decision making. Click here to access a link to the school survey…
And thank you for your patience and understanding in this tumultuous time.
May 27, 2020 (2:30 PM)
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.