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Three Ravalli County students qualify for state spelling bee
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Three Ravalli County students qualify for state spelling bee

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Three Ravalli County middle school students are among the top 60 across Montana selected for competition in the Treasure State Spelling Bee on March 25.

Florence-Carlton seventh-grade student Carter Rayburn, Stevensville Middle School sixth-grade student Zane Svaren and Corvallis Middle School (Edna Thomas School) eighth-grade remote learner Melanie Jessop qualified for the state competition.

Corvallis Middle School Principal Rich Durgin said that for the school bee they participated in online competition to allow their remote learning students to be involved along with their in-person learners.

“We also made the decision because we knew that the qualifying round and state spelling bee were going to be held online, and we wanted the students to be familiar with the testing format,” Durgin said. “Because Melanie Jessop won our CMS Spelling Bee, she had an opportunity to take the Scripps intermediate (county) level spelling bee along with spelling bee winners from other schools around the state.”

The Scripps’ Spelling Bee is open to all Montana students in grades 4-8 who attend schools that are enrolled with Scripps.

This year COVID-19 has changed the time-honored tradition of spelling bees. There was no Ravalli County spelling bee last week, no pronouncers, judges, jitters or audience members. Rather, competitors just took an online proctored test.

Montana Spelling Bee Director Matt Henry in Bozeman said he knew competition would need to be different to continue having bee competition in Montana this year. His quandary was how to have a state competition without the traditional structure of county spelling bees to qualify students. Then, Scripps’ announced their online testing system which was also made available to schools to use for the first round of bees.

“I jumped to use the Scripp’s online system to use at the county level,” Henry said. “That’s how we winnowed the students down to the 60 that go to the state spelling bee.”

After students won their school competition, they took the online test and the top 60 students, irrespective of county, will compete for the state title and the opportunity to advance to nationals.

Actually, there are 61 competitors due to tied scores.

The Treasure State Spelling Bee will use the Scripps National Spelling Bee online testing platform with spelling and vocabulary questions and a time limit of 30 minutes. Each speller will need a teacher or nonrelated adult proctor, check off an integrity pledge and not use any study aids, devices or dictionaries while taking the test.

The state winner will advance to the national competition.

The 2021 National Spelling Bee will be held in a mostly virtual format, but the top finalists will compete for $50,000 in scholarships and other prizes in person at Walt Disney World in Florida and televised on ESPN2, July 8. Travel expenses for the Montana contestant and his/her parent as well as other prizes will be provided by the Montana Television Network, Treasure State Spelling Bee sponsor.

Last year the National Spelling Bee was canceled for the first time since World War II due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to their website, the purpose of the Scripps’ Spelling Bee is to “help students improve their spelling, increase their vocabularies, learn concepts and develop correct English usage that will help them all their lives.”

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