COVID 19 Update Pioneer School Reopening Plan 2020-2021

COVID19 UPDATE: 2020-2021 Reopening Plan

Pioneer School Reopening Plan 2020-2021 from the Principle

Download the District’s Reopening Plan Here (PDF)

July 27, 2020

Dear Panther Families, 

I am writing to you today to give you an update as to where we are as a district in our planning to return students and staff back to campus this fall. We hope that sharing our plans, although they are likely to continue to evolve with our ever-changing situation, will help our Panther families better plan. 

I’d like to begin by saying that everyone from administration down to our staff, teacher, parents, and students are in a really tough spot right now. As a society, we are dealing with a situation where there are many different theories and opinions about what school should look like when we return, but very little data to support those theories or opinions. Across the country, this has put the education system in a very difficult position, as we don’t have any concrete information, and the information we do have is likely to change many times over before we ever set foot on campus in August. As a team and as a school, we are now striving to find a balance between our core principles: maximizing student learning while providing a safe and secure learning environment. We never envisioned these two principles being at odds with one another, but here we are. 

One thing I want to stress before addressing our reopening plan is no one, absolutely no one wants our students back on campus, and school to return to normal more than our teachers and staff. As educators, we choose our profession because of our love for working with children and the opportunity to mentor them. Engaging primarily through video stream or remote learning doesn’t fully allow us the opportunity to build those critical relationships needed to fully engage in the learning process. Impossible it is not, but we all know that face-to-face interactions are far more effective. 

I know there is a lot of concern and hesitation about opening our campus and returning to in-person instruction on August 19th. However, today looks very different than it did just four short weeks ago, and we hope that four weeks from now, it will look very different than it does today. Attached/linked to this letter you will find our full reopening plan for the 2020-2021 school year. This plan is not written in stone and pieces of this plan are subject to change as we continue to learn more about the virus, risks to students, and what is or is not working after we start school. 

One very large piece of this puzzle that continues to be brought to my attention time and time again is whether or not masks will be mandatory in our school day. While the Governor mandated masks for Montana last week, schools are exempt from this order and the decision is being allowed to be made locally. At Pioneer, we’ve decided to move forward with masks being “recommended” and mandatory in specific situations. This means that at this time, students will only have to wear their masks when interacting with teachers 1:1 and on busses. Teachers will be required to wear their masks when working 1:1 with students and when working with different groups/pods of students. This policy is not set in stone and is subject to change depending on new orders highlighted by the Governor or new recommendations laid out in Yellowstone County.

I’d like to extend a HUGE thank you to our Panther PTA and one anonymous donor. They teamed together to purchase 150 cloth Panther masks for our students. Each student will be given a cloth mask to wear and keep at the school. Cloth masks will be sanitized daily with a UV Disinfectant Box. Bus riders will receive a disposable mask as they enter the bus that may be worn during the duration of their ride.

As far as which plan our district will be starting in, that is all dependent upon where we are in Yellowstone County with COVID outbreaks in four weeks. The Pioneer School Board and Administration will make a decision on which plan we will start, barring any health/safety risks outlined by our health department, at the next meeting of the Board which will be held August 10, 2020, at 4:30 PM. In four weeks, should cases continue to rise my recommendation to the Board would be to start in plan B. However, I am hopeful that in the next four weeks we will see some relief and be able to start in Plan A. Time will tell. As referenced in the past few letters, we realize that every family is in a different situation and may have very different needs. As a district, we respect your role as the primary decision-maker for your child’s health and welfare. As a reminder, the district’s 1908 Policy allows families to opt-out of onsite instruction for your child. If you know now that your student will not be able to return to campus next year, please fill out the attached form 1908 F (can be found at and return it to the District Office. Submitting this form will allow you to keep your child at home but will maintain their enrollment in Pioneer School and we will continue to provide your child with an education while they work from home. Should we begin school, and you find that remote learning is not working, and would like to resume instruction on campus for your child, we will allow you to switch back to in-person instruction one time. The same goes for in-person instruction. Should a family choose to move to remote learning, we will allow you to do so one time throughout this school year. 

I would like to take a minute to thank each family who participated in the Reopening Survey that was sent out earlier this month. It was a great deal of help to us in our planning process, and we truly appreciate the time you took to do so. We had a fantastic response and I am excited to say that 90% of our families that participated in the survey intend to send their students back to campus this fall. This is amazing news.  

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me –

We love you, we miss you, stay safe.



Melissa Schnitzmeier
Principal/Superintendent, Pioneer Elementary
Phone: (406) 373-5357