The Belgrade School Board decision made Thursday and reported here, may not be the option trustees go with as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report on how schools should open. See the related story on the web.


School schedules this fall will be a mix of in-class and online learning that education officials hope will reduce coronavirus transmissions, comply with health requirements and keep students engaged.

The Belgrade School Board voted 5-2 to install Superintendent Godfrey Saunders’ recommendation of a “blended option” Thursday night. Trustees Holly Murray and Nicole Blount voted against the recommendation.

Saunders will present the details of the blended option to the public and the board at its next meeting in August. Board Chair Mary Ellen Fitzgerald told trustees the Thursday vote was merely to determine how the schools will operate this fall – online, blended, or complete opening.

Administrators and most trustees said the blended option gives schools the most flexibility. If transmissions decline, the district could consider moving to full-time instruction, but, at the same time, if the situation worsens, the school could move to online learning. Blending the two choices at this time would allow educators to move quickly either way, Fitzgerald said.

“This gives you a direction in which to go,” she said. “It will relieve anxiety with teachers and give parents some definite direction.”

A questionnaire returned by 2,250 parents representing a cross-section of students in every grade had an 80.7% average choosing a partially open policy compared to 73.46% wanting full-time instruction, Curriculum Director Mark Halgren told trustees. Broken down, parents typifying every grade favored partial opening.

Heading back to a normal school year is the best and easiest way to educate students, Saunders said, but it can’t be done at this point.

“To be honest, there is no way we can adhere to most of the guidelines for safety,” he told the board. “Going back full-time is the simplest thing to do, but I also know it is the riskiest thing to do,” he said. 

Fitzgerald agreed.

“Going back full-time is the best option, but I really think we have to consider the safety of our students and staff,” she said.

Look for the full story in next week’s edition of the Belgrade News.