Some Montana schools reopened for classes this week
WILLOW CREEK, MONTANA- While most schools around the country remain closed as students and teachers turn to online classrooms, schools in Montana were given the option to open as early as this week, and some have.
According to CNN, students at Montana's Willow Creek School were headed to classrooms on Thursday.
"They're incredibly excited. They are so glad to be back," said Erika Wahl, the mother of two students at the school, which has between 50 and 60 students in grades K-12. "They miss their teachers, they miss their friends."
Unlike the 48 states and Washington DC who have ordered or recommended that schools close through the end of the academic year because of the coronavirus pandemic, Montana an Idaho officials decided to open schools this week.
Last month, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said the state's schools may reopen as soon as May 7, although it's up to the local districts to do so.
Gallatin County, where Willow Creek is located, had the highest confirmed number of Covid-19 cases in Montana counties, 146, with one death. The rest have recovered, and the county now has no active cases, according to the state's health department.
Most parents were in favor of reopening, even for just a few weeks, the Willow Creek principal said.
"We polled our parents, and 76% of our students would be returning if we could reopen our doors," said Bonnie Lower, Willow Creek's superintendent.
"And with the staff on board, we asked the board, took them the numbers, and they said If we can we should make it happen, the kids deserve to be able to finish the school year," Lower said.
As yellow school buses pulled in front of the school at Willow Creek on Thursday, staff members wore masks and carried pool noodles to measure distance and ensure that everyone kept the mandated six feet of separation from each other.
"I've been trusting them for the last several years to take care of my kids, I'm trusting them now," Wahl said as the school reopened.
The school will alternate when students are let out of class, so there are fewer in the hallways at once, Lower said.
"Common areas are being disinfected regularly, every classroom has hand sanitizer, wipes," Lower said. "Teachers have masks, so if they're in a student's bubble, they put the masks on. So -- a lot of precautions."
Bathrooms are used one at a time, and there are distancing marks on the playground.
The students aren't required to wear masks.
Not everyone in the community of about 200 people is as excited as Wahl's children.
"I think it's a travesty," Stephanie Labanowski told CNN. "Just because it's not in your backyard doesn't mean it's not something to take seriously," she said, speaking of the virus.
Labanowski said she's a substitute teacher at a nearby Three Forks school, which hasn't reopened.
"I honor their decision not to open up. I think that's a very smart thing to do," she said.
With summer vacation only a few weeks away, some Montana parents have decided not to risk sending their children to school and are instead, choosing to home school their child for the time being.