COVID-19 cases confirmed at Bigfork middle and high schools

by MACKENZIE REISS
Bigfork Eagle | September 16, 2020 10:10 AM

Students at Bigfork High School and Bigfork Middle School have tested positive for the coronavirus just a few weeks into the fall semester, Superintendent Matt Jensen confirmed Thursday. The school was notified Tuesday of the high school student’s positive test, while notice of the case in the middle school was received at 11:30 a.m. this morning. The school has conducted their own efforts to identify individuals who had close contact with the infected parties and found eight in the high school and 19 in the middle school. A close contact is someone who has been within six feet of the infected person for more than 15 minutes.

Rather than wait for the formal process to be completed by Flathead County, Bigfork Schools was able to quickly notify close contacts and send them home.

“Since the intent of contact tracing and quarantine is to mitigate possible additional spread, we started the process immediately,” Jensen wrote in the email. “... Our close contact lists are generated by our seating assignments and will be reviewed by health officials. However, due to the very active workload at the Flathead County Health Department, we decided not to wait for their initial review.”

Bigfork Schools continue to remain open at this time and the district “is doing everything we can to stay open on site.” However, students have the option at any time to transition to virtual classes.

“Our virtual options is not fixed, meaning kids can go back and forth between virtual classes and on-site classes,” Jensen noted.

Teachers have been finding creative ways to incorporate virtual students into classroom activities. When small groups of students are working on their laptops, for example, some teachers have been assigning a virtual student to be part of that group as well.

“It just allows them to real time collaborate with the kids no matter where they are,” Jensen said.

He has not noticed a significant increase of students switching to virtual learning in light of recent COVID-19 cases on campus, but that could change given that the high school case was just announced today.

Despite the positive cases, school closures are not anticipated.

“Our concern for school closing is more closely tied to our staffing,” Jensen explained. “In the event that we have staff that need to be quarantined or staff that get sick …. We’re very limited on substitutes, so that would probably put us into a situation where we would have an online day.”

The district unrolled a number of changes at the onset of the fall semester to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus including pre-entry screenings, organizing different entrances to the school for each grade level, limiting mixing of students in the classroom and additional cleaning and sanitation practices.

For more information on the school’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts and plans, visit www.bigforkschools.org/covid19-resources/#krh or contact the district office at (406) 837-7400.