The shows will go on, but very carefully and with safety in mind.
The Bowlus Fine Arts Center plans to move three shows to the fall, after being postponed from this spring because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
New shows also are being planned for the next season, but with lower expectations on ticket sales and revenue.
Additionally, the Bowlus will add numerous social distancing restrictions for events, including a reduction of seating capacity to 25%, or just 200 seats, and other precautions.
Bowlus director Daniel Kays presented a budget for fiscal year 2020-2021, highlighting numerous changes that he called “The COVID Factor.”
“The budget is reflective of the unprecedented times,” Kays told the USD 257 board of trustees Monday evening. “The budget is being presented as conservative and cautious given the unknowns.”
That means holding the line on salaries and capital improvement projects. It includes a 10% expected decrease in funds from private trusts, lower expectations for ticket sales and the cancellation of several programs.
Shows for the new season have not yet been announced, but Kays anticipates about 23 events, plus the three events postponed from the spring. That includes seven “cultural attractions,” two recitals, two symphonies and about a dozen educational shows such as for students and schools.
Three events were rescheduled: the “Stunt Dogs Experience” Aug. 16, Albert Cummings Sept. 18 and “Anne of Green Gables–The Ballet,” which was rescheduled for Oct. 2, but now it appears that show may not happen. Those who have tickets can use them for the new date, if it occurs. Single ticket holders who cannot use them could ask for a voucher for another performance, donate the tickets or ask for a refund.
A couple of community events, such as the high school play and a dance recital, could possibly be offered at some point.
The Bowlus will reduce its seating capacity by leaving every other row vacant, leaving empty seats between families and groups, and utilizing the balcony seating area.
“Sometimes we don’t do shows in the balcony but this would definitely have to put people in the balcony to have 200 seats available,” Kays said.
Additional cleaning and sanitizing practices will be practiced, and the use of masks will be highly recommended though not required. The budget calls for $5,000 to be spent on items like masks and additional sanitation and cleaning products.
Signs will be posted, warning patrons of the risk of attending an indoor event.
SEVERAL programs planned for next year will be cut or postponed.
All staff travel, such as to conferences, has been cut.
The relaunch of the Buster Keaton Festival, expected to be in September, will be postponed by a year.
A new author visit program will be delayed as well.
The Missoula Summer Resident Youth Program will be cut.
Reserve funds will be used to cover minimum requirements for ticket sales and any refunds for the rescheduled shows.
Ticket sales will be offered per show for the next season, rather than as a season-ticket package, Jennifer Taylor, who serves on the Bowlus commission on behalf of the board, clarified later.
The school board recognized its “Teachers of the Year” and two retiring staff members.
• Elementary Teacher of the Year is Christina Boyers, who has taught in the district for 10 years and is leaving to teach in Girard next year.
• Secondary Teacher of the Year is Mark Boyd of Iola Middle School. Boyd suffered a stroke last summer, but returned to school early in the school year.
“I think we’d be hard-pressed to think of anyone who has undergone more challenges than Mark this past year,” said Stacey Fager, superintendent of schools. “He came back just as determined as ever to make a positive influence on students in the middle school and work through any challenges he was facing.”
• Mark Percy is retiring. He oversaw the in-school suspension program at both the high school and middle school. He also was a coach, which included taking the high school boys baseball team to a state championship.
“When you get to this point in a career, it’s just about the relationship with the teachers and the kids. I’ve been blessed to have unbelievable kids to work with,” Percy said.
• American government teacher and coach Daniel Berg is retiring.
“I enjoyed being here 33 years. I coached four different sports, tennis, volleyball, basketball and track for a long time,” Berg said. “I was really happy to do that because I got to meet a lot more kids. I taught seniors mostly and not meeting kids until they were seniors was a little challenging. So I enjoyed coaching because I had a good idea how to treat them when I finally had them in class.”
Fager revealed that Berg had been his teacher and track coach at St. Paul High School. Fager had hoped his son, a sophomore, would have Berg as a tennis coach this year but the coronavirus pandemic cut those plans to just one practice.
IN OTHER news, the board
Approved spending $33,600 for a 10-passenger 2020 ?? van from Sigg Motors. The van will replace an eight-passenger van in the district’s fleet.
Gave Superintendent Fager authority to transfer funds in the budget as needed at the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Fager said this year’s budget presented some challenges because of declining student numbers and fewer students on free and reduced-price lunches than expected. Next year’s budget will likely include those issues, as well as unknowns caused by the COVID-19 response and increased expenses like higher insurance costs.
“We have some challenges going forward,” Fager said. “We’re very hopeful, as we get into the next budget year, with all the unknowns with COVID, our students are ready to come back to school. And if we have to work through remote learning again, we’ll do that. Our numbers will be key going forward this year, but we’re very hopeful.”