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Small Montana School Is Reopening for Students

Willow Creek will be among the first in the nation to do so
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 5, 2020 12:10 PM CDT

(Newser) – A tiny public school in Montana will be among the first in the US to resume classroom teaching this week after being closed for nearly two months because of the coronavirus pandemic, per the AP. In opening its doors to most of its 56 students and 18 staff members on Thursday, Willow Creek School is going against the advice of some education officials and against the grain of the vast majority of US schools that plan to remain closed the rest of the semester. District Superintendent Bonnie Lower says she knows the school is taking a risk in reopening for 2 1/2 weeks to end the semester for the students from prekindergarten to high school. But three-quarters of the parents surveyed in this farm and ranching community with a population of 250 want their kids to catch up on their studies and experience a little normalcy before the summer break, she said.

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"We ride that seesaw everyday—is it a good idea?" Lower said. "We're not taking this lightly. We don't want people to think we're being irresponsible by making this choice. We're trying to do what we feel is in the best interest of the students." Lower said the main advantages Willow Creek School has is its small student size and its relatively large two-story schoolhouse. If all 56 students had planned to come back, the school might not have reopened. But an estimated one-quarter of students plan to continue their studies from home, she said. Gov. Steve Bullock gave schools the option of reopening on Thursday, after previously reopening churches, restaurants, and retailers. Reopening schools prematurely risks another surge of infections and "runs the risk of undoing the work of the last two months," according to the American Federation of Teachers.

(Read more Montana stories.)

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