Thousands of kids from kindergarten to high school will enter a brave new world on Wednesday morning, as each child will be mindful of protecting themselves against COVID 19.

MCPS Superintendent Dr. Rob Watson outlined the start of the year with some grades starting a day earlier than others.

“First day of school on August 26th, we're welcoming kindergarten students, sixth graders and ninth graders,” said Dr. Watson. “We chose those grade levels because those are the big transition years as kids go from one level to the next and so we thought it would be a good idea to have them back in the building first. For those grade levels we will actually split the alphabet. So for example for kindergarteners, letters A through K will go in the morning and last name letter L through Z will go in the afternoon. Same thing with sixth grade and ninth grade, and then everybody else K through 12 will start on Thursday and Friday. So on Thursday we'll have a through K and on Friday L through Z for all grades.”

The school board determined that schools will open in Phase 1, the hybrid model, with a mixture of in-classroom and remote learning.

First day of school on August 26th, we're welcoming kindergarten students, sixth graders and ninth graders,” said Dr. Watson. “We chose those grade levels because those are the big transition years as kids go from one level to the next and so we thought it would be a good idea to have them back in the building first.

Watson said he has been in constant contact with the Missoula City County Health Department as they provide the daily COVID 19 infection numbers.

“I've been talking with the health department once a week and with the Monday report I got the numbers and they were looking better than the previous week in terms of numbers of new cases, infection rate and those sorts of things,” he said. “So I got a pretty positive report from the health department yesterday, but we'll continue to ask that question every week.”

Watson said the number one priority will be making sure that all students are properly masked as they enter the school buildings.

“The mask is really important and we will provide masks for anybody that doesn't have one or if they forgot theirs that day we'll be sure to provide them one,” he said. “The supply issue is what I think students will notice right away is that they won't be sharing supplies. So, you know used to be someone might bring three or four glue sticks and you might share those with your classmates, but we won't be doing any of that sort of community supply buckets. Everybody will have their own supplies and they'll have to just use theirs, because we don't want to risk that transmission by sharing supplies.”

Watson said buses will be running, so to see the schedules, visit the MCPS website.

Watson also asks all drivers to be extra careful and drive slow around school zones.

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