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2024 Montana Primary elections

Charter school rollout plays out in court; PFAS found in Kalispell wells

Injunction blocks OPI info collection on charter schools
John Hooks | Montana Public Radio

A Helena District Court judge has limited the amount of information the Office of Public Instruction can collect before advancing the process for public charter schools to open this fall.

A state education panel earlier this year approved 19 public charter schools. However, OPI and state superintendent Elsie Arntzen argued Montana law required schools to attain supplemental approval from local county commissioners and school district heads. They also said schools needed to submit an estimated number of students who would attend, before the department could disperse state funding.

A coalition of school districts and public education leaders recently sued OPI, arguing the agency’s requirements could delay the expected opening of charter schools this fall. In a preliminary injunction Thursday, Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Mike McMahon allowed OPI to collect information on student numbers, but blocked the requirement for supplemental local approval.  

Two Kalispell city wells exceed federal standards for PFAS
Aaron Bolton | Montana Public Radio

The City of Kalispell says one of its public water wells exceeds new federal standards for PFAS, a family of chemicals that are known to cause cancer and other health issues.

The city last month detected PFAS in four of its wells and said two were at unsafe levels for humans. The city has stopped using the wells as it searches for additional water sources.

Sampling for PFAS has been a voluntary measure for public water utilities. Utilities now have three years to test for the chemicals and report it to the state.

Kalispell says it will retest its water supplies this summer.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
John joined the Montana Public Radio team in August 2022. Born and raised in Helena, he graduated from the University of Montana’s School of Media Arts and created the Montana history podcast Land Grab. John can be contacted at john.hooks@umt.edu
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