Longfellow Elementary School File

Second-graders line up to return to class at the end of recess Nov. 11 at Longfellow Elementary School.

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Longfellow and Meadowlark elementary schools joined a growing list of schools and classes that have transitioned to 100% remote learning due to staffing challenges.

Both schools will go fully remote from Wednesday until Nov. 24, when Thanksgiving break is scheduled, the district announced on Tuesday. The schools will return to five days of in-person learning on Nov. 30.

Meadowlark had 19 staff absences on Tuesday, six of which could not be filled, according to a letter from the deputy superintendents. A third of the staff would be absent for the remainder of the week, with many of the positions unfilled by substitutes.

On Monday, Longfellow reported 10 staff in quarantine, according to the district’s database. The Tuesday numbers were unavailable by press time.

“Longfellow has been impacted recently by COVID-19 quarantines and has reached a point in which the building is unable to be adequately staffed,” the three deputy superintendents — Steve Johnson, Marilyn King and Casey Bertram — wrote in a district-wide email on Tuesday afternoon.

Teachers from both schools will send remote learning materials home with students on Tuesday and will provide further information to their classes on what remote learning will look like, the district said.

Parent liaisons are working with families needing hotspots for reliable internet and emergency child care, the deputy superintendents said in an email. Families needing additional supplies are being told to contact their principal.

The district will also provide lunch, from 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., at the main entrance of the schools on each day of remote learning.

“We understand the stress this puts on our families and thank them for their patience and understanding as we work together to ensure a safe environment for students and staff,” the deputy superintendents wrote.

During a special board meeting on Monday, the deputy superintendents said maintaining staff in the buildings remained one of the main challenges, with substitute teachers and paraprofessionals hard to find.

On Monday, there were 89 adult staff and 541 students in quarantine and isolation, according to the district’s database. Last week, the district averaged 67 adult staff and 455 students in quarantine and isolation due to COVID-19.

At the elementary level, there have been 54 instances of classes moving to 100% remote learning since the beginning of November, according to the database. One school, Irving Elementary, also went remote for a day while the district conducted necessary contact tracing.

A full school has yet to go 100% remote at the middle and high school levels. The eighth grade classes at Chief Joseph Middle School moved to full remote learning for two days. Various classes throughout the schools have also been quarantined in the last month.

Schools outside of the Bozeman district have also announced transitions to 100% remote learning. Belgrade High School and Anderson School both announced they would be fully remote through the end of November due to staffing challenges.

During Monday evening’s Bozeman School Board meeting a few people asked whether elementary schools should continue with five days of in-person learning.

Carly Ramsey, a therapist at Emily Dickinson Elementary School, asked the board on Monday what they were planning to do and if they would tell the elementary schools to go remote to help flatten the curve.

“I’m concerned about the high rate when I look at the COVID numbers,” she said of the countywide coronavirus infections. “… I’m also concerned that we are losing a hold on this crisis that we have.”

Rebecca Spear, the nurse for the district, also commented in Monday’s meeting, saying she was originally in support of moving to in-person learning at the time because she thought it was doable.

“I am asking the board to direct the executive cabinet to look at going remote through the holidays,” Spear said.

When the district contact traces, she said they’re looking back 10 days or so because it’s taking six to seven days to get test results back.

“We cannot contact trace anymore… We’re having a lot of family transmission,” Spear said, adding the spread was becoming uncontrollable.

A paraprofessional from Hyalite Elementary School, who was quarantined as of Monday, said the board had a duty to look at what was happening in the elementary schools. She also asked the district to move the elementary schools to remote learning through the holidays.

Elementary schools remain the only grade level that has transitioned out of the blended model to five days of in-person instruction. The middle schools’ transition to full in-person learning, scheduled for Nov. 23, was postponed earlier this week.

The Bozeman deputy superintendents told the Chronicle they were looking at moving to remote learning classroom by classroom and school by school based on available staff. A change in instructional models for a school level or the entire district would require board approval.

“As deputy superintendents we work collaboratively with our school administrators, central office team and the Board of Trustees to make the best decisions possible during a challenging time,” they wrote.

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Liz Weber can be reached at lweber@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.