Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

P.C. schools close, events canceled during COVID-19 state of emergency


March 18, 2020

Though Phillips County Public Schools where already well on their way to being proactive where the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus is concerned, Montana Governor Steve Bullock announced Sunday evening that all Montana schools, grades 6-through-12, are to shutdown for the next two weeks.

“Executive Orders 2-2020 and 3-2020 declare that a state of emergency exists in Montana due to the global outbreak of COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus,” reads a letter from Gov. Bullock to the people of Montana.

Bullock’s executive order calls for the closure all non-residential schools in Montana starting this Monday (March 16) until Friday, March 27, says all eligible schools will receive state payments, that schools will continue to provide meals to students who need them, and the state will work with schools during this period and evaluate and announce next steps.

Ahead of Gov. Bullock's Executive Order and State of Emergency Declaration — which comes two days after U.S. President Donald Trump declared a national emergency — Malta Public Schools had announced plans on dealing with the COVID-19 virus and decided the school would remain open to students, though all extra-curricular activities would be canceled and all buildings would be shutoff to the general public.

The Malta Public Schools then altered their plans on Monday morning as students missed their first day of school due to the COVID-19 protocol and the school shutdown.

In response to Gov. Bullock’s ordered shutdown, Malta Public School’s announced that the elementary, middle and high schools are planning on offering school breakfast and lunch and meal pickup will be available at the East Door of the Malta High School from 8-10 a.m., starting Wednesday, March 18, according to a press release from Malta Public Schools Superintendent Kris Kuehn. Meals will be available for all Malta Public School students and they will be able to pick up breakfast and lunch at the same time for that day.

Supt. Kuehn said Malta teachers will meet Tuesday, March 17, to begin preparation for providing educational services beginning Monday, March 23, 2020.

“We are trying to determine which of our students do not have internet access at home,” Supt. Kuehn said. “Students without internet access will be provided alternative content. We are still working out those details.”

If Malta students need to check out a device, or gather items from their lockers, they will be able to do so on Wednesday, March 18, 2020 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

The announcement concluded starting bus transportation will not be provided during the Governor’s mandated shutdown (March 16-March 27, 2020).

All events for the month of March — including prom and springs sports — have been canceled or postponed.

The Dodson Public School’s Board of Regents, administrators and educators spent Sunday afternoon working on a plan to continue to teach their students, and a half-hour before Gov. Bullock’s announcement, said they would suspend live school in Dodson, run the facility with a skeleton crew, and teach their nearly 100 K-through-12 students via the internet thanks to technological advancements made at the school in recent years.

“We presented state officials with our plans during various phone calls during the day and they were very pleased and excited about how we would be making sure every student will have the tools to succeed as we face closing indefinitely,” Dodson Public School Superintendent Gary Weitz told the PCN.

Following Gov. Bullock's mandatory shutdown, Supt. Weitz told the PCN the Dodson School District supports Gov. Bullock's decision and said during the school shutdown that “We have a thorough plan in place to continue to serve our local educational needs and provide our hourly employees with peace of mind as we continue to battle this global enemy.”

Saco Public Schools had also announced last Friday that they were working with local and state health officials on a plan to remain open but Saco Public School’s Superintendent Tanya Funk announced on Sunday night that "We will be working diligently in the coming hours/days to figure out exactly what this mandate means for our staff and students” on social media.

The PCN will continue to monitor Malta, Loring, Dodson, Whitewater, and Saco Schools — as well as local Head Start and Boys & Girls Club, who are also shut down — and report here or on our website.

Nursing Homes

As for non-school entities, Gov. Bullock also announced that nursing homes in Montana will have visitation suspended for all visitors and non-essential healthcare providers, except for certain compassionate care situations (e.g., end of life), and essential visitation, adding that several screening protocols must occur for those visitors during the end of life situations.

The Hi-Line Retirement Center (HLRC) in Malta has signed up stating “no visitors” since last Friday, according to HLRC Administrator Duane Murray.

“We are encouraging our staff to stay home if they are sick and we are stressing good hygiene throughout the facility,” Murray told the PCN. “Our goal is to not feed into the hysteria and just use good common sense. There is no need for hysteria, everyone just needs to use common sense.

Food Bank and local events

On Monday afternoon, the Malta Food Bank announced that their protocol during this time is to have clients call ahead (654-1235 during open hours, 9-noon on Tuesdays and Thursdays) and their food will be placed in a grocery cart outside of the foodbank.

“No recipients inside the Food Bank until further notice,” they announced.

Earlier on Monday, the Phillips County MSU Extension Office announced that Ag Day this Friday at the Malta City Hall had been canceled, and with it, the Phillips County and Malta Volunteer Fire Departments Hamburger lunch fundraiser has also been called off.

The Phillips County Library had announced that storytime has been canceled until April 14.

Staying safe

The Phillips County Health Department says there are no COVID-19 virus cases in Phillips County, nor widespread trans-mission in Montana, and local and state public health recom-mendations include self-monitor for symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If any of these symptoms occur, con-tinue to practice proper hand hygiene and stay home if you are sick.

The Phillips County Hospital and Family Health Clinic (see story on page 1A of this week’s PCN) announced on Monday that the general public (those without appointments) stay away from the hospital and recommends if you have a fever over 100.4, cough and shortness of breath, self-quarantine (stay home) and treat symp-toms with ibuprofen and/or Tylenol and stay hydrated and if you are unable to manage your symptoms at home, you are advised to first contact the clinic BEFORE coming in. (654-1100).

For questions, please call the state COVID-19 hotline: 1-888-333-0461 or go to or contact your local county health department.

ALSO SEE Malta School Board passes "emergency motion" on March 17" posted Tuesday. March 17 at 1 p.m.


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