Montana Public Radio

State Releases Two Sets Of School Reopening Guidelines

Jul 2, 2020

Two separate reopening guides for Montana schools were released on Thursday, one from the governor’s office and the other from the state’s office of public instruction. Neither document is an order, but were presented as ideas for schools to consider when reopening.

Montana’s K-12 schools shut down in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, and it’s still unclear exactly how they plan to reopen for students this fall.

OPI wasn’t at the table for the creation of the guidance document released by the governor’s office, according to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen.

“Schools do not need duplication,” she said. “Schools do not need to have two different masters. They need to have very precise information in front of them so that they can make the best decision. And the best decision is for their students, their communities and their families that they serve.”

Arntzen said the pandemic is creating uncertainty for schools, and it’s important to have one voice passing along guidance. The governor’s office “put politics ahead of health and safety in the opening of our schools for the next school year,” she said.

Lt. Gov. Mike Cooney helped develop the executive's guidance. He said schools should look at many resources as they’re developing their plans, including those from OPI.

Gov. Steve Bullock encouraged schools to also talk to their local public health officials for ways to keep students and staff safe.

“Given it’s sort of the authorities under this office that had closed the schools, that it was critical that we actually put out something for schools to be taking a look at in opening up,” he said.

Both school reopening documents link to recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other resources.