Montana Public Radio

Education

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.

A girl with headphones on writing notes while looking at a computer.
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Montana schools are asking Gov. Steve Bullock to waive requirements under a new state cyber security law aimed at protecting student information as teachers scramble to move classes online.

School districts say they need more flexibility to move classes online amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, and that they’re currently limited by the 2019 Montana Pupil Online Personal Information Protection Act.

Montana’s public schools could receive about $41 million from the federal stimulus package Congress passed last week. Schools will have a lot of flexibility on how they can spend that money.

Missoula's Hellgate High School
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

Monday was the first day that public schools across Montana were required to have plans in place for how they will deliver online or remote education, as well as other services. MTPR’s Corin Cates-Carney spoke with reporter Aaron Bolton about classes moving forward as school buildings remain closed amid the novel coronavirus pandemic:

Noah, a fifth grader in West Valley School District, works with his grandmother Sherry Kirksey on math at the kitchen table as school doors remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Courtesy Kelly Fisk

As Montana schools begin to provide education remotely in order to reduce the spread of coronavirus, parents will be serving as their child’s co-teacher at home. For many, that’s a large undertaking, but it’s even more of a challenge for parents of students with special needs.

Missoula's Hellgate High School
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

The Montana Office of Public Instruction is asking Gov. Steve Bullock and the federal government to waive requirements for standardized testing and instructional time. The request comes days into the governor’s two-week public school closure order in response to the novel coronavirus.

Stevensville High School.
Stevensville Public Schools

Even as Montana's public K-12 schools sit closed over coronavirus concerns, work on the school system continues. Newly released data from the state of Montana provides a picture of just how much it costs to educate the state's students.

Released this week, the state's "report card" shows it cost an average of $10,474.64 to educate each student in the public school system last year. The actual cost varies depending on districts or schools.

School hallway.
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Following Montana Gov. Steve Bullock's order Sunday to close public schools for two weeks due to detections of the novel coronavirus, districts around the state scrambled on Monday to set plans in place for remote learning and feeding students. Yellowstone Public Radio News Director Nicky Ouellet talks with MTPR's Aaron Bolton about how schools are responding to these detections.

Empty school classroom
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Montana Governor Steve Bullock has ordered all public K-12 schools in the state to close for two weeks following additional in-state cases of the novel coronavirus. About half a dozen patients have tested presumptively positive for the illness.

In a press release Sunday afternoon, Bullock said the step was taken to slow the spread of the virus and that the task force he assembled earlier this month would continue meeting to determine next steps.

School hallway.
iStock

The U.S. Department of Education has agreed to delay a new rule that could pull significant funding from rural and low-income schools in Montana. The delay follows objections this week from Montana’s U.S. Senators and other high ranking members of Congress.

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