Education1

Even as Belgrade schools students, teachers and staff settle into an anything-but-normal pandemic routine for 2020-21, administrators are turning their attention to planning for next year.

On Monday, the school board authorized forming two committees – one to determine new elementary school attendance boundaries for the 2021-22 school year, and the other to recommend a name for the new elementary school currently under construction on Bolinger Road.

Superintendent Godfrey Saunders said community members interested in serving on both committees are being sought.

The boundary committee, whose work may take several months, will evaluate demographic data, Belgrade’s growth projections, and transportation considerations as it decides which schools will serve the district’s various neighborhoods.

Other factors to be considered include ensuring that contiguous boundaries are maintained whenever possible and “grandfathering” students who wish to continue attending their current elementary schools.

The elementary attendance boundaries must be redrawn because the as-yet-unnamed Bolinger school will open next fall and the Heck Quaw building will be closed for renovations for an as yet undetermined purpose. Saunders told the board Monday it’s time to begin “serious discussions” about the Heck-Quaw project.

Saunders said he hopes the process of naming the new elementary school will be exciting for a community that has been weathering the difficulties of the pandemic for the past six months, giving people the opportunity to “talk about new things other than COVID.”

Though the final decision on a name will be made by the school board, Saunders anticipates the community will enjoy participating in the naming process. He joked that “things like Westslope Cutthroat” probably will be thrown out, in reference to the short-lived decision in Bozeman to bestow the name “Westslope High” on the district’s second high school (now called Gallatin High).

During Monday’s board meeting, Saunders and several district principals reported that the school year is off to a good start, despite all the adjustments that have been made because of the pandemic. Saunders said there have been no cases of COVID identified in the schools to date. He said students are complying complied with infection-control protocols, and families have been diligent about keeping sick students home.

A survey is being sent this week to families who chose the remote learning option for the first quarter to see if they wish to continue with distance learning past the first nine weeks, Saunders said.