Photo by Jana Bounds

Big Sky School District transitions to online learning

As the state mandates school closures for two weeks, Big Sky students will continue to learn

Big Sky School District (BSSD) facilities will close to students effective Monday, March 16 as the district transitions to online learning, per unanimous approval by BSSD board of trustees at a special meeting this evening. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock made the announcement today that schools throughout the state will close for two weeks, however the continuation of education in Big Sky will occur within days. Big Sky students will have teacher-created learning packets available or be using an online forum. 

Noting that this is an extraordinary time for the nation, board chair Loren Bough said that this move will allow for two primary goals to be achieved: promoting the health and safety of students and the community as well as delivery of education. 

“We’ve really been preparing for this for five years,” Superintendent Dustin Shipman said. “The staff is very well versed in using an online platform as are the students, as are the parents. We’ve been moving towards a good integration of technology for some time.” 

There will be a 48-hour stop to allow for complete disinfection of the building before teachers are allowed back into the facilities. Even with that, Shipman does not foresee any more than 10 people in the buildings for the next two to five daysAn online platform like Google Hangouts Meet will be used for all staff to meet remotely. 

Bough explained that the state mandated two week break could extend longer and create a chance that some students might attend school over the summer. 

“We don’t want that. We would rather fulfill educational requirements,” he said. “[This] will be a really unique, real world test of online learning.” 

The district asks for patience during the transition and Bough said that it will not be perfect, “but we feel very strongly that we can use this online platform to educate children and to keep them on track.” 

“The critical element is open communication,” board trustee Whitney Littman said. “The number one focus for us is the commitment to education.” 

Reopening of the school will be determined via an ongoing conversation with area officials. 

The district plans to aggressively tackle food scarcity issues for students and the greater Big Sky community using private funding. The plan is to create grab and go meals that will be available Monday through Friday at distribution points in the area. 


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