Missoula news/talk station KGVO reported today (Thursday, 7/23) that Hellgate Elementary will re-open for school this fall, after a unanimous decision was made by the school board. This is a separate school district from Missoula's largest school district, #1, so this has no reflection on the district #1 schools, just to make that clear.

After reading the KGVO article, I reached out to several Hellgate elementary and middle school parents, and most were a mix of confused and upset, while just a couple were happy to hear that school would be in session. "I'm so relieved that my kids will have somewhere to go," one single mom said, "I can't afford a sitter after summer, there's no way."

The group of parents did agree on when, and how they received information from the school. Parents got a voice mail on Monday (7/20) saying that school would be open this fall, and that more info would be shared via a second voice mail today (Thursday, 7/23.) On Tuesday, 7/24, there was another message saying there would be a Zoom meeting that night, which there was, but according to the PTA, there was so much disruption, "appalling, inappropriate and profane language," that the recording had to be deleted, and parents who didn't see it live were left out of the loop on what was discussed.

One father said that the school did call him today to ask if his son would be attending school, and he asked if he could get more information about how kids would be kept socially distanced and "safe" at school, and was told to read the documents posted on the Hellgate Elementary website, documents that the father described as "legal jargon" he didn't understand. He went on to say that the school has told him that parents need to decide if their kids will be there for the first day of school because once they decide, they will be committed to sending kids to school through the first week of November and cannot change their minds until then. Same with parents who decide not to send kids to school, they will be committed to home schooling for the first 90 days of school.

These parents also shared that they have been told that children who will be distance learning will be expected to engage in screen time for the same number of hours that kids will be in the classroom. Another couple I spoke with regarding the opening of their children's school said the school hasn't "released anything" and when they got the call today to ask about their "plan" for their kids, they responded by asking what the school's plan is, and got the answer that it "hasn't been fully released yet." If this is accurate, it begs the question, how are parents supposed to decide whether or not to send their kids to school if they don't have all the info they need to make an educated decision?

There are a lot of mixed feelings and greatly differing opinions about Missoula kids going back to school, and most people are on edge right now anyway. My heart goes out to all of the kids, parents and school administrators who are just doing what they feel is best. Everyone is under a lot of stress, please give your kiddos extra loves and hugs, this is a weird time for them, and please don't take it out on the teachers, I assure you, they are NOT just trying to get "more time than just the summer off." Check out Dave Grohl's defense of teachers here.

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