Announcement: MCEL 2021 to be Provided Virtually Only

Considering the rapidly rising rates of COVID infections from the delta variant, the sponsoring organizations of the Montana Conference of Education Leadership have decided to cancel the in-person option for MCEL 2021 and focus our efforts on delivering the highest quality virtual experience possible for MCEL 2021. Factors leading to our consideration included:

  1. A 535% year-to-year increase in the 7-day average of new cases in Montana.
  2. A 250% year-to-year increase in the 7-day average of active cases.
  3. A 170% year-to-year increase in active hospitalizations.
  4. A 195% year-to-year increase in the 7-day average of deaths.

Of added concern is that this new wave of COVID cases is occurring despite a 45% overall vaccination rate in Montana (51% with at least one dose) and with another 120,000 Montanans who have contracted COVID and since recovered. We do not see anything on the horizon that suggests this trend will abate soon enough to afford us the choice of taking a wait-and-see approach. We wanted to make sure to give you notice of our decision soon enough to avoid hotel cancelation fees and other disruptions that could occur if we delayed a decision at this point. An added consideration is the possibility that the Lewis & Clark County Health Department could impose limits or other conditions on gathering sizes between now and mid-October that would prohibit conducting MCEL 2021 in person.

Next Steps 

  1. If you previously registered to take part in MCEL 2021 in person, we are offering all in-person registrants the choice of a full cancelation and refund of your registration fee or a conversion of your registration to virtual delivery. Cancelations must occur no later than Friday, September 3 by emailing Karla Smerker (ksmerker@mtsba.org) your cancelation request. We will convert the registration of those who do not cancel by 5 pm on Friday to a virtual registration, subject to all ordinary registration and cancelation procedures.
  2. If you previously registered to take part in MCEL 2021 virtually, hang tight. Nothing has changed in terms of our plans to offer a high-quality virtual experience for MCEL 2021.
  3. If, despite current trends, the rate of COVID infections unexpectedly and dramatically falls over the coming weeks, we will be restoring a limited opportunity for registered participants to join us in person in Helena. Details:
    1. This choice is contingent upon compliance with any limits on gathering sizes and/or other conditions imposed by Lewis & Clark County.
    2. This will be a scaled-back opportunity available only to those already registered for MCEL 2021.
    3. We will implement this opportunity only if both of the following conditions are satisfied:
      1. Lewis and Clark County’s spread of COVID is either low or moderate, using CDC definitions of such terms; and
      2. The 7-day average of new daily infections for Montana is at or below 130 during the week preceding MCEL 2021.

We will make the decision on whether to offer this limited choice on Friday, October 15. If offered, the onsite choice will be limited to the first 100 registered participants who claim it by emailing Karla Smerker (ksmerker@mtsba.org).

We are redoubling our efforts to give you the best possible virtual experience for MCEL 2021, covering topics and supplying information critical to your success in ensuring a safe and effective learning environment for each child in every public school. We hope you will join us as we provide this unique opportunity for professional development.

Thank you for your leadership and understanding.