Montana Public Radio

Montana Office of Public Instruction

These Browning kindergartners spend part of their day learning in English, and part of it learning in Blackfeet. The school's aim is to have a class of fluent Blackfeet speakers by the time the students graduate from high school.
Courtesy Emily Ritter Saunders

Montana education officials announced Thursday that two task forces will develop guidance on how the state’s public schools can safely reopen their doors next fall.

As Montana’s public schools close out the school year, the state is turning its attention to the fall, when many districts are expected to welcome students back into their buildings one way or another.

Private school students could receive more educational services from public school districts as $41 million dollars in aid comes into Montana under the federal CARES Act. A technical change in how money flows into the state means public schools could increase the percentage of relief dollars going to non-public school students. 

Empty school classroom
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The novel coronavirus outbreak is impacting new teachers’ ability to get licensed in Montana. More than 200 educators with provisional licenses may not be able to teach next fall.

Empty school classroom
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It’s been six weeks since the coronavirus pandemic shifted Montana’s public school districts to remote and online learning, and some school counselors are struggling to check in with students. Counselors say the lack of daily face-to-face interactions may prevent some from getting the help they need.

Empty school classroom
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The Montana Office of Public Instruction is asking the public to comment on federal waivers for testing requirements and school performance during the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the waivers, Montana school districts aren’t required to hold standardized testing, won’t be graded on their students' performance and have greater flexibility in how they spend federal dollars.

An empty classsroom.
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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.

An empty classsroom.
iStock

Calls to the state child abuse and neglect hotline have dropped by about half since schools closed their doors in mid-March due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services said the hotline received a little over half of the roughly 760 weekly calls it normally received before schools were ordered on March 15 to close their doors.

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.

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