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There have been no reported cases of COVID-19 in Fallon County, but that doesn’t mean the city of Baker, the county, schools and local businesses haven’t taken steps designed to prevent the spread of the virus.

Both Baker municipal offices and the county also have taken steps to restrict public access to their buildings and facilities.

Fallon County has announced a disaster declaration and the closure of the courthouse and county buildings to the public.

According to Fallon County Resolutions 1036 and 1037, county commissioners made a disaster declaration regarding the onset and spread of the COVID-19 virus. “It is of utmost importance to protect our citizens within the entire county of Fallon, Montana from the spread of this disease by following the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control,” resolution 1036 stated.

According to the county, the disaster declaration will allow commissioners to activate parts of the local or inter-jurisdictional disaster and emergency plan. It will also authorize furnishing aid and assistance. It also allows the estimating of expenditures and using any unused funds in a separate emergency fund, the declaration stated.

In resolution 1036 the county commission also followed the strong recommendation by the Fallon County Public Health Officer to close the Courthouse to the public as a preventative measure was approved. The resolution also recommended that two-thirds of the Board of Commissioners be in a home-quarantine, the commission could still conduct business as long as a quorum was participating by phone.

County Public Health closures

Through April 10, the following businesses were closed to use and occupancy by the public:

•Restaurants, food courts, cafes, coffeehouses and other similar establishments.

•Alcoholic beverage service businesses, including bars, taverns, brew pubs, breweries, microbreweries, and other establishments offering alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption

•Health Clubs, health spas, gyms, aquatic centers, pools, fitness studios and indoor recreational facilities

•Bowling alleys

•Salons, barber shops, massage and other similar establishments offering one-on-one type services

•City, county and school parks and playgrounds including skate and splash parks

The businesses subject to the directive are also permitted and encouraged to offer food and beverage using a delivery service, window service, walk-up service, drive through service or drive-up service, the public health directive explained.

Schools switch online

Both Baker Public School and Plevna School have closed for the present after Montana’s governor issued an executive order earlier in March.

Baker has announced switching to using the Google Classroom program and also have announced that Chromebooks are available for checkout. Parents were required to sign for the Chromebook.

As of Monday (March 23) the school was transitioning to an on-line/at-home instruction plan for all students.

Under the new system, the students would be required to finish work packets and access online content. Some packet and paper-based content would be required by Friday (March 27) between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

According to a post on the school’s Facebook site, the K-6 students and the K-2 students at Longfellow school will need to drop off the packets by Friday (March 27).

The school closure has been extended through April 10 according to a directive issued by Governor Bullock on March 24.

The teaching staff would be available by email for questions about the work packets, the post added.

In addition, the school is offering “Grab and Go” breakfasts and lunches for students, at least through Friday, depending on how long the closure will stay in effect for schools.

According to a recent Facebook post from school officials, the breakfast will be ready for pick-up weekdays from 7:30 a.m. until 8:30 a.m., while lunch will be available from 11 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. at the south lunchroom entrance.

The school events planned recently have been postponed because of the closure and include events such as the Prom, Parent-Teacher Conferences, The Knight’s Ball, the Elementary Music Festival, the After Prom luncheon, Food Drive and Kindergarten Roundup among other events.

The Montana High School Association has already announced that all spring activities have been suspended, including practices and competitions. That decision will be reviewed April 13, according to a release from the MHSA.

In Plevna, the school is also following the state guidelines, according to Superintendent Nick Schumacher.

In a posting on the school website, the administration explained that as a district, they will re-evaluate the emergency closure plan and off-site instructional delivery protocol.

Students were also asked to continue communicating with teachers.

“We are here to guide the students and families through the off-site learning experience,” the administration’s post explained.

In addition, students were reminded that the ACT Test has been suspended until April 21.

The school started its fourth quarter Monday (March 23).

In a letter posted by the superintendent online, he explained “when planning for this school year,we certainly did not have off-site learning as part of our educational program. We will continue to do our best to meet the needs of our students and families of the district. Every family should be hearing from our teachers frequently.

“Open lines of communication between the school, teachers, families, and students are essential to our educational plans. If you have yet to hear from your child’s’ teacher please let the district office know. “This week, the District will continue providing off-site instruction to our students. This instruction will be sent home both electronically and via USPS.

“Students receiving hard-copy materials will also receive an empty, stamped envelope. Please use this envelope to return off-site work to the school. The District will pay for any postage due. Please put the envelope containing work to be returned to the school in the mail.

“The District will pay for the postage at the post office.

The District will continue to offer “Grab and Go” meals for breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday this week. Our teachers are working collaboratively to ensure we are streamlining the delivery of off-site instruction. If there are ways we can better meet the needs of your student during these trying times, please reach out to your child’s teacher. Please continue to monitor the district web page and the District Facebook page for current and accurate information pertaining to school closure and COVID-19,” the superintendent.

“Google Classroom is one of the many tools that we use,” the superintendent explained.

“Our teachers are working diligently to make sure we get an off-site instruction available to our kids,” he said.

He may be hopeful that the situation may change, but Schumacher said that is planning for any contingency.

The kids are doing well, he added, as they adapt to the new situation. “But we adults in the school certainly miss having them around here.”

The school is continuing their student meal program. “That has been going as planned. We offer Grab and Go service, both in Plevna and in Ismay. We offer breakfast and lunch both and we offer it to all children in our community,” Schumacher said. “It is totally free of charge.

“Our teachers and staff are working hard to make sure that they are prepared for any and all obstacles … and they are willing to surmount any that arise,” he said.

Some of the adaptions are simple, with pencils and paper packets sent home for the students to work on, the superintendent said. “We have some students that have connectivity (internet) issues … and don’t have internet at home.”

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