Re-opening Montana Schools Guidance

The Re-opening Montana Schools Guidance provides non-regulatory resources for Montana schools to use in conjunction with their own plans for the new school year and includes the areas of:

  • Safe physical environments.
  • Academic programming.
  • Social-emotional support.
  • Flexibilities within state rules and statute.
  • School nutrition.
  • Special education.


Additional Guidance


Montana is a local control state. Local school boards and local health departments have the legal authority to determine how schools will operate in light of the COVID-19 outbreak unless overridden by directives from the Governor. Your school or district should be your first point of contact regarding services your school or district is offering at this time, or if you have questions or concerns regarding those services.  

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding School Reopening




Academics & Distance Learning

Academic Programming Re-opening Montana Schools Guidance

Use the accordion below to read more about Academic Programming recommendations for each scenario. Guidance below is from the Re-opening Montana Schools Guidance document. 

Fall 2020 OPI and Montana Partners Community Virtual Sharing Sessions

During the spring of 2020, the OPI offered Remote Learning Sharing sessions as a place for educators, admin and school staff to collaborate and share ideas for our remote teaching settings. We are excited to continue many of these sessions throughout the Fall of 2020. Check out our calendar of OPI and Montana Partners Upcoming Community Virtual Sharing Sessions.Join a one-hour session to collaborate and discuss ideas for this fall with other Montana educators and staff.

Planning for Learning This Fall 

As we enter into an unprecedented fall, the OPI is here to support districts, schools, and educators. With thousands of resources available at educators fingertips, we have curated a list of planning resources and documents. We hope these resources help support you in your work this summer and into the coming fall for planning for academic success for all students. Equity for all Montana students is essential. All resources have been selected because of their attention to equitable access to a high-quality education. 

Assessing Student Readiness

Below is a collection of free resources for assessing students at the beginning of the year and throughout the year to help guide instructional priorities for all students. 

Professional Learning Related to Remote Learning 

Remote, blended or remodeled in-person learning requires additional professional learning. We have updated and curated a variety of high-quality professional learning opportunities for educators and educational leadership. Some are links to online courses while others may be upcoming webinars and or recordings. 

Montana Specific Support 

We are lucky to have many excellent partners in education. Below is a shortlist of our Montana-based partners in education. Please feel free to reach out to the partners as needed.  


The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to pose significant challenges to school districts. Given the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the OPI will continue to seek flexibilities and pursue what educational path is best for students within the law. 

On September 3, 2020, Secretary DeVos issued a memo to Chief State School Officers on the requirements of testing this school year. To learn more about this directive and what it means for schools, please read the September 3 Memo.

The OPI’s re-opening guidance for assessment includes updates and resources to support data literacy and its direct influence in guiding instruction, alongside a balanced approach including the use of formative and interim strategies. 


Visit the Assessment FAQ: COVID-19 Testing Alerts.

  • On August 24, 2020, Smarter Balanced interims were released on the Montana testing portal.
  • On September 14, 2020, Science interims at Grades 5, 8, and 11 were released on the Montana testing portal.
  • New proficiency criteria for English Learners is in and can be found in the 2020-2021 ELP Guidance for School Districts. More resources are available on the Title III English Learners web page of the OPI website.
  • Districts selected for participation in the NAEP 2021 math and reading assessments were notified this September. (Note: NAEP is not administered in all schools.)
  • View the 2020-2021 State Summative Assessment Testing Calendar.
  • The OPI contracts with test delivery contractors in order to deliver these standardized assessments to Montana students. School districts will manage educator training, roster preparation, student delivery, and achievement reporting through these various portals. Each assessment is managed independently from one another as the assessments themselves have different purposes and measurement intentions.
    • For mathematics and reading/language arts, all students in Grades 3-8 and Grade 11 are assessed using these testing programs. For Grade 11, the OPI administers the ACT test to fulfill the requirements for math, reading/language arts, and science.

Pupil Transportation

Governor's CRF Pupil Transportation Relief Fund Information


School Bus Evacuations


Here are the Guidelines:

  • School bus evacuations must be conducted at least twice per school year and must include all students, whether they ride to and from school, or not.
  • The first bus evacuation must be held within the first two weeks of school.
  • The second bus evacuation must be within the first week of the second semester.
  • All students must practice evacuation drills since they may ride a school or activity bus sometime during the school year. 
  • All evacuation drills should be conducted the same way each time so students know exactly what to expect. They need to know what it looks like, what it sounds like, and what it feels like so there are no surprises during a real emergency. 
Additional information and procedures for school bus evacuations can be found in the 2018 Montana School Bus Standards, page 61. 
Questions? Contact Donell Rosenthal, Director of Pupil Transportation, 406-444-3024.

School Finance

CARES Act & School Emergency Relief Funds

Under the Cares Act, Montana schools will receive federal emergency funds to help school districts respond to the impact of COVID-19 through the following types of support:


  • State SEA (The OPI) School Emergency Relief Fund - $41.295 million available to Montana

OPI must distribute 90% based on the Title I formula for FY 2019 and Superintendent Arntzen is providing the remaining 10% to all operating EL/HS districts to ensure that Districts that are not Title 1 receive a minimum of $10,000.

  • Additionally, Superintendent Arntzen is using a portion of the 10% state set-aside to provide $3 million in Special Education support.
  • Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund - $8.765 million available to Montana
    • The nature of this funding will be determined by the Governor's Office and K-12 and higher education are eligible. 
  • Federal Education Stabilization Fund - $307.5 million available nationwide
    • This funding will provide direct grants to those states that are most impacted by COVID-19.
  • Federal Save School and Citizenship Education (“Project SERV”) - $100 million available nationwide 

CRF Payments to Schools

School Finance Questions & Concerns

School Nutrition

New! USDA Flexibilities to Allow SFSP Until June 30, 2021

On October 9th, the USDA extended multiple nationwide waivers and flexibilities. These extensions mean that districts operating USDA Child Nutrition Programs may have options for feeding students through June 30, 2021. 

  • Districts may continue to operate the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) or switch to the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) through June 30, 2021. Please note that each program has different regulations and meal counting/claiming requirements. Districts must have an approved MAPS agreement with OPI School Nutrition Programs to operate and claim meals for either program.
  • Here is a helpful resource on Meal Program Options
  • Districts that have already been approved to operate the School Year SFSP may log into MAPS and extend their days/months of operation on the site applications through the end of the school year (or longer if planning to operate next summer).
  • Districts that have not yet signed up to operate the School Year SFSP, but want to make the change must first complete the School Year SFSP Form. Once this form is submitted, you will receive a call from your regional specialist to determine next steps.

The OPI School Nutrition Programs will provide more guidance as soon as possible. We look forward to working with program operators to provide meals in a safe and accessible manner, either through the NSLP or the SFSP. Please contact your regional specialist with questions.

School Nutrition Back-To-School Flexibilities Survey

June 25, 2020 – USDA released the following 5 nation-wide waivers for School Year 2020-2021. These waivers are for the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program. 

  1. Non-congregate Feeding in the Child Nutrition Programs - EXTENSION #2
  2. Meal Service Time Flexibility in the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, and Child and Adult Care Food Program - EXTENSION #2
  3. Parents and Guardians to Pick Up Meals for Children - EXTENSION #2
  4. Meal Pattern Flexibility in the Child Nutrition Programs - EXTENSION #4
  5. Offer versus Serve Flexibility for Senior High Schools in the National School Lunch Program for School Year 2020-2021. 


Social, Emotional & Behavioral

  • Find information on serving students using the Whole School, Whole Community, and Whole Child Approach on the School Mental Health page
  • OPI's Special Education COVID 19 information page provides the most current guidance, resources, and tools on serving those with special needs. 
    • Questions about serving students with disabilities can be sent to:

Other FAQ's & Guidance