Laurel School District addresses school closures, implementing online learning

By 
Chris Mcconnell
Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Laurel School District continues to work tirelessly to come up with solutions to best meet the educational needs of the student population throughout the current pandemic. With all schools closed in the Laurel School District for two weeks district administrators are scrambling to find solutions in the event that schools will remain closed beyond March 27.

Wednesday afternoon Dr. Linda Filpula told the Outlook the district is accelerating their timeline to start providing online educational learning by Monday, March 23. “We are currently working on a rollout to help students and families who may not have a laptop or other device at home. Information on the district plan will be sent to parents before Monday. Building principals will also contact parents regarding getting educational materials to all students,” she said.

Laurel trustees also held an emergency board meeting on Tuesday to declare an unforeseen emergency in accordance with state law due to the community and school health concerns related to COVID–19 and authorize the administration to take necessary steps to execute this declaration and inform the public and government agencies of the declaration.

Per state law the school fiscal begins on July 1 and ends on June 30, with a minimum number of aggregate hours required during the time period. For a half–time kindergarten program it is 360 hours and for full–time kindergarten and grades 1–3 the required instructional hours are 720 per fiscal year. For grades 4–12 it is 1,080 hours.

If an elementary or high school district fails to provide the minimum aggregate hours the superintendent of public instruction is required to reduce state aid for the district and will be charged two times the hourly rate for the aggregate hours missed by each student.

Superintendent Filpula said with the school board declaring an unforeseen emergency, “It will minimize potential impacts. This is a preventative measure that will limit the potential loss of state funding” if the district is unable to meet the aggregate hours due to the district closure.

OPI submits waiver requests

A statement was released yesterday morning by the Office of Public Instruction requesting Governor Bullock consider issuing a waiver of requirements for section 20–1–301, MCA and proposed the following language for the Governor:

I am waiving any penalties that could affect Montana school districts that do not meet aggregate hours as required in section 20-1-301, MCA. This waiver does not relieve school districts from providing equitable educational services for students for the remainder of the school closure. I strongly advise school districts to work on providing equitable access to educational services, which may be directed to implementing proficiency policies for student learning, thus addressing aggregate hours as set forth in section 20-9-311(4)(d), MCA.

OPI also requested the Governor consider waiving the two statutes controlling both state reimbursement and county reimbursement payment for school bus transportation. The OPI believes that underlined portions of section 20-10-145 and section 20-10-146, MCA, must be eliminated during the school closure and extending until June 30, 2020, to allow State and county funds for bus transportation reimbursement to continue to flow to local districts during and after the school closure.

The reimbursement provides a portion of a school district’s budgeted transportation fund. The school district transportation fund allows districts to pay for district salaries and benefits for staff working in transportation, contracts with pupil transportation providers, and other necessary bussing needs.

The OPI requested the statutes be waived through June 30th, 2020. Under this waiver, the state and county will continue to pay school districts for bus routes but not individual (parent’s) transportation contracts. This will be as if the district operated as originally scheduled instead of “actual days.” This payment will continue, allowing the districts to provide services for transportation services provided to student for school related instruction which can include delivery of lesson plans, nutritional services, and technology services.

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Upcoming Events

Monday, March 30, 2020
Mondays, 1:30 p.m., 201 1/2 E Main St.
Wednesday, April 1, 2020
Wednesdays, 7 p.m., 201 1/2 E. Main St., Laurel
Thursday, April 2, 2020
First Thursday, 5 p.m., City of Laurel Council Chamber
Monday, April 6, 2020
Mondays, 1:30 p.m., 201 1/2 E Main St.
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
1st and 3rd Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., Council Chambers
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
2nd Wednesday, 5:35 p.m., Council Chambers

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