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School Closure Update- March 20th
Casey Klasna
Thursday, March 19, 2020

Dear Ennis Mustang Family and Ennis Community Members,

From all of us at Ennis Schools, we hope that you are well and adjusting to all the changes due to COVID-19.   With the Governor’s two week closure of all K-12 Public Schools, it has definitely posed challenges for our school, students, and families.

We are uncertain as of today if the closure will go beyond March 27th. Governor Bullock announced Thursday, March 19, that schools should be preparing for an extended closure and to be ready just in case. If a closure is ordered beyond March 27th, a plan would need to be developed for offsite learning and be approved by the trustees. A plan approved by the trustees would allow funding for schools and not require days to be made up. Hopefully we will be back March 30!

In regards to the current two week closure, we are not alone.  During the closure we are working closely with school organizations such as MTSBA (Montana School Boards Association), SAM (School Administrators of Montana), MREA (Montana Rural Education Association), MFPE (Montana Federation of Public Employees), and many more.  We continue to network closely with area schools and schools statewide in efforts to share ideas to keep public education moving in the most positive direction that it can.

 Ennis Schools and their employees have been working tirelessly on planning and delivering material to our students. With this unprecedented closure, we have found ourselves thinking outside the box and acting quickly on taking care of our students during this uncertain time. I am very proud of all the efforts from all staff.

On Monday, March 16th of this week, we had the entire staff meet and started planning for the two week closure.   By 10:00am on Monday, our school nutrition staff, along with the help of other school employees, had 150 meals ready to go and served over 50 families curbside in front of the elementary school.  In addition, our local food bank helped in providing breakfast for our students. On Wednesday, with the assistance of teachers, paraprofessionals, and office staff, our school nutrition staff served over 100 families.  A huge thank you to our cooks and staff for making this possible and available.

Custodial staff have worked hard on deep cleaning the school while students are at home.  The opportunity to do extra cleaning was taken advantage of and we are pleased with the amount of work completed. We will continue to take every precaution to keep our school clean.

The elementary teaching staff and support staff met and discussed the best way to deliver educational materials during this closure.  For the time being, the elementary elected to go with sending home instructional packets. Their efforts have been amazing, and all K-6 students received educational materials for review, practice, and enrichment as well as a note from their teacher.  100% of our K-6 families received the materials for their child. Our teachers are working tirelessly making connections through phone calls and emails home as well as making preparations for a potential longer term closure.

Our secondary teaching staff and support staff met and discussed a plan going forward for providing educational material for our 7-12 students.  This week was the last week of the third quarter so the students were tasked with finishing assignments and projects for their final quarter grade.  Teachers also provided enrichment activities for their students. The teachers have worked diligently to contact students and parents to offer educational support during this time.  Quarter four starts next week and we are rolling out a plan to deliver material digitally to those students who have the capabilities of accessing material and lessons online. We have surveyed parents on their child’s access to technology and are working on developing packets of material (for those without technology access), working with Internet providers to offer free Internet, as well as offering devices to students in need. The goal is to proceed with all digital learning in grades 7-12 if this school closure continues.  

We want our families and shareholders to know that we are very serious in our efforts in helping reduce exposure of COVID-19 at school and implementing social distancing within our own school walls. The health and wellbeing of our staff and students is very important. We have encouraged staff to limit their exposure at school for the next few days and to work remotely from home while still contributing to the school. Expectations of all staff is to plan lessons, connect with students by phone or email, be available for questions, participate in online professional development, view safety training videos, etc.  In addition, staff are learning new ways of delivering materials digitally to their students.

In closing, THANK YOU for all of your support during this uncertain time.  We want the parents, students, and community to know that we are working very hard and at all hours of the day to prepare.  We continue to work as a team and continue to do what’s best for kids.