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The latest news about the novel coronavirus and COVID-19 in Montana.

Schools Want Flexibility To Continue Remote Education Through The School Year

An empty classsroom.

After the speedy shift to online learning amid the coronavirus pandemic, many school districts across the state say it would be easier to finish out the school year that way instead of returning to classrooms.

Montana’s top K-12 education official is asking Gov. Steve Bullock to give districts that flexibility if he lifts his emergency school closure order.

School will be in session for about another seven to eight weeks and it’s unknown whether it will be safe for students to return to in-person classes before summer break. Gov. Bullock ordered schools to close in mid-March and has been extending closures on a bi-weekly basis. As it stands, schools will be closed at least until April 24.

Districts say it’s hard to plan with that kind of uncertainty. Montana Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Elsie Arntzen is asking Gov. Bullock to give districts the option to continue distance learning or a blended option of in-person and online classes if he lifts his emergency school closure order. That order waived in-person instruction hour requirements as long as school districts have approved plans for remote and online learning. Currently, those requirements would be put back in place if Bullock reopened school doors.

OPI also asked the governor to hold nearly $9 million in federal aid his office will be distributing to universities and public schools until districts know what kinds of financial impacts they may be facing. MTPR did not receive a response for comment from Bullock’s office by deadline.

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.
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