Public schools quick to respond during COVID-19 closure

By Riley McNew,

age 12


On Sunday, March 19, all Montana schools were ordered to close because the Governor wanted social distancing. This included my school, Libby Elementary. All of this started in China at the end of 2019 with one case of a new disease, coronavirus, or COVID-19.

Now, there are over 300,000 cases spread throughout the world, including in Montana. Luckily, there are none in Libby or Troy yet. This is affecting many families, and stores are running out of supplies. People are losing their jobs too because other businesses are being closed and everyone is supposed to stay home. Nothing else like this has happened in my life or my parents.

When the schools first shut down, the staff came together to create a plan of action. They decided to send lunches and school work on the buses or have students pick it up in town. This started on Tuesday, March 21. The bus runs four hours later than normal and delivers lunch and breakfast for the next day. They are giving lunch to any kids. The bus has nice people on it; usually two teachers helping and a bus driver. Getting lunches has really helped because my parents are at work and having the same thing everyday would not be fun.

Social distancing is hard for everyone. The government recommendation is to stay six feet away from people. We are not supposed to hang out in groups with friends and family, so we normally use Facetime or text and call each other instead but it isn’t really the same.

Today, there are 31 cases of COVID-19 in Montana but it is growing. At first, at school, kids were not taking it seriously. I am not allowed to see them now, so I don’t know for sure, but I think they are taking it more seriously now.  It is hard not to if you watch the news.

At home, school is harder without a teacher but my mom is a good substitute teacher and I have a lot more time off.  All of my real teachers at school send me packets of work even though most of my work is on the computer. Not everyone has a computer at home so paper is better. They also send  a note about how to do the work and when it is due.

This situation is really scary because I am scared for my family and other people around the world. I feel like the world has started to go mean and is taking food, toilet paper, and cleaning supplies they don’t need which makes other people go without things they need. We could all use just a friendly complement once in awhile and you can’t see many people, but you can try to spread kindness to everyone and bring up people’s spirits in other ways.

It worries me that we might soon overwhelm our healthcare system, but people are trying not to spread the virus. Besides social distancing, the best way to prevent COVID-19 is to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly and not touch your face.

The schools are supposed to open on March 27, but when the Governor closed restaurants this week, he said it will probably be longer. That means we need to adapt to learning at home. I am thankful that my teachers are so available and that the school is supporting all of us from a distance.

Libby Logger Publications said, “Our Little Loggers are happy to have their lunches delivered each day!” They had their last bus delivery until after spring break on Friday March 20. “We are still scheduled to return to school on Monday, March 30 unless we receive other directions from the Governor. We will keep you updated,” the school said on their Facebook page. Left: In town, teachers hand out work for elementary students as parents drive through. At LMHS, 266 high school students and 154 middle school students picked up packets last week. Photos courtesy of Libby Logger Publications.

Forward thinking: Sharp raises funds for future funeral

By Tyler Whitney


It could almost be something out of a Hallmark movie where a group of friends in a small town hold a fundraiser to cover the funeral costs for a friend before they have even died.

Stella Bjornrud Sharp is in great health for someone who has lived to 93. Besides some loss of hearing and some achy legs, she is the picture of a joy with her unmistakable smile. Nonetheless, dying is expensive, and with life insurance preferring not to take on a new nearly centennial customer, Stella has been saving up for her funeral to avoid costs for her family. Fortunately, her faithful friends and community at the VFW arranged for a fundraiser for March 28, to help cover all costs of a funeral. Unfortunately due to the Covid-19 outbreak and the temporary closure of many business the fundraiser will be rescheduled for a later date.

The Hallmark movie of Stella’s life would not begin at the VFW, of course, but in a small farm house that could have passed for a shack not far from Kalispell, with a huge garden out back, a clothesline filled with handmade shirts and trousers crafted with love and practicality, and the sound of a river not far off. It would be summertime, and Grandma Bjornrud might be making beavertail beans or robin stew, or perhaps in her garden tending her Bleeding Hearts and Hollyhocks, or finding ways to reuse old coffee grounds and cloth scraps. Nothing would ever go to waste in that house: no food, no trash, and most definitely, no moment of time spent together. These lessons would never leave the mind of a young Stella.

When Stella was old enough to go to school, her family moved to Fortine and she lived through the Great Depression with stories of a burst appendix filled with music, hobo camps and costume making, grease covered shoes on homemade skies in the winter, and being hired as one of the first women in Montana’s Forest Service and as a teletype operator receiving the news of Germany and Japan’s surrender. With her graduation from high school, came the end of the second World War and a deluge of men coming home looking for wives. Out of sympathy, Stella asked a young Don Sharp, fresh back from war, out to dance. Well, the poor fella was a hopeless dancer, absolutely miserable at it, but in the midst of finding his two left feet, he also found the love of his life. A year later—after many letters, one particularly romantic day at a state fair, and finally yielding to Don’s proposals—the two were married. Not long after, James was born, the first of seven children and the beginning of a Sharp family line that would span the entire country.

After several years of adventures and moving from state to state, Stella, her husband, and her children moved to Libby. Their apartment situation was odd to say the least, but they made the best of it; their building had once been a hospital, their bedroom, an operating room and now part of it was inhabited by the Hi-way Deli.

Not long after, following some less than enjoyable time working for a cleaning crew, Stella went to work for 4-B’s until they closed 21 and a half years later. During that time, 4-B’s offered to pay for some classes at the college and Stella was given an opportunity to write her own autobiography. Her story is absolutely lovely and filled to the brim with far more stories that could ever be written here.

After close to an hour’s worth of flashbacks, the Hallmark movie would bring us back to the VFW. With Stella’s husband a veteran of WW2, four sons having served, and four grandkids currently serving, Stella’s passion for serving our veterans has only been eclipsed as a top priority by her family.

For 29 years, Stella has volunteered at the VFW, either as the Auxiliary President, District President, Honor Guard, Chaplain, or program Chairwoman, to support those, who, like many in her family, have sacrificed for their country. And even at her age, her fellow VFW members still respect and recognize her unfaltering devotion, passion and energy as they tried to vote her in as Junior Vice President of the district. She declined, wishing to allow someone else to take the position who might be able to better serve the organization should she have any circumstances that prevent her from completing her term or executing her position effectively.

To finish the story, as with any Hallmark film, there needs to be a feel-good ending. Perhaps it would be Stella at the VFW fundraiser, surrounded by friends, grinning widely, receiving enough money to cover the whole funeral. Perhaps it would be a family gathering where Stella would be surrounded by her children, her 21 grandchildren, and her 50+ great grandchildren all having a lovely time and trading family stories. Or maybe, after those, the last shot of the film would be Stella sitting at her desk, writing one more chapter to her life story, trying to think of a better ending than she had written before, but ultimately keeping it,  “I was just informed that I have another great grandson due… Don and I really started something, and boy, am I tired,” she said.