Updated: Mar 17
DRUMMOND – Just as the Drummond School Board was preparing to start its emergency meeting Sunday afternoon, Montana Governor Steve Bullock beat them to the punch.
Bullock issued a two week closure of all schools in the state from March 16 to March 27. The closure puts a halt to all student activity, including extracurricular ventures like sports.
His statement – which also included restrictions for nursing homes – made clear that all eligible schools will continue to receive all state payments under the school funding formula and that the state will work with school districts to evaluate and announce the next steps.
Bullock’s official statement can be read in full below.
The Drummond School Board did cover two items on its agenda, the first being a motion that passed 4-0 and gave emergency authority to Superintendent Christina Barbachano. This basically allows Barbachano to write checks and make decisions on a variety of things that will keep the school functioning during the closure.
The second was a resolution to start investigating how Drummond Schools could provide remote learning should the closure last beyond March 27th. Barbachano said that neither she nor members of her faculty really knew what that looked like at this point, but that they would be researching that in the coming days.
“What that looks like I really don’t know,” said Barbachano. “What that teaching looks like for Mr. (Mike) Bradshaw may be very different from what it looks like for our kindergarten teacher Mrs. (Rosa) Ostler.”
Parents in attendance voiced concerns about their students, especially those that would be graduating this spring.
“We need to talk about this because we need to know where these kids’ futures lie,” stated Dusty Rigby. “We have a senior who graduates in May and if they’re out two weeks do they have to make that up? He’s got a job lined up and when can he start that?”
It was stated during the meeting that Lance Melton, Executive Director of the Montana School Board Association (MTSBA), has said that students would not need to make up work during the two week closure. For missed work beyond that time, a student’s responsibility for missed coursework remains a question mark.
Bradshaw, a veteran teacher who is set to retire at the end of this school year, voiced concerns over how all this was playing out around the state and within the schools.
“I’m older than most of the people here…,” said the instructor of 42 years, “But this is serious and we need to treat is as such. We have to respond. It just happened so fast.”
Discussion was also had about students being able to get personal and necessary items from their lockers, which the board agreed could be planned and executed in the days to come.
Earlier in the day Mark Ransford, Chairman of the Granite County Board of Health, had already issued a statement that would have closed all schools within the county to close starting March 18th for an undetermined time limit. Bullock’s order overrides that county measure.
Town mayors Gail Leeper of Drummond and Daniel Reddish of Philipsburg are expected to be in attendance Tuesday morning at the Granite County Commissioner’s meeting when the topic of COVID-19 and its effects on the county are discussed. They and other county leaders will likely be in attendance Wednesday night at the quarterly Local Emergency Planning Committee Thursday night at Hall School.