Keeping Students Safe & Healthy


NEW! Science-based Resources and Tools for Safe In-person Operation of K-12 Schools*

*Provided by the Centers for Disease Control and the US Department of Education's February 19, 2021 briefing. The link to the recording will be posted when complete.

10 Essential Actions for Improving School Safety Document



Teaching, Learning & Supporting Students



Watch the Re-opening Schools Safely panel to hear from Montana administrators, teachers, and a parent about supporting students during this time. You'll also hear a high school student share her experiences adapting to the last year, and what she sees for schools in the future. 


Re-opening Guidance Document, Published July 7, 2020


Additional Guidance


Message to Montana Educators About COVID Vaccinations 

 Montana's Vaccination Plan   DPHHS COVID Demographics

OPI Press Releases

Governor's Directives

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.   


Breakdown of CARES Funding for Montana Schools & Districts

(Find more ESSER funding guidance in the School Finance section below)


Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) = $211,394,695; Corona Relief Fund (CRF) = $83,575,676; Governor's Emergency Education Relief (GEER) = $12,816,385; Montana Total Funds = $307,786,756

Academics & Remote Learning

Academic Programming Re-opening Montana Schools Guidance  

2020-2021 OPI and Montana Partners Community Virtual Sharing Sessions 

Join a session to get ideas for remote teaching settings with other educators, admin, and school staff.  

Planning for Learning 

This school year has been unprecedented, and the OPI has put together a Planning Resources for Learning guide with a curated list of resources and documents to guide you. 

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.  


On February 22, 2021, the US Department of Education sent a memo to the Superintendent of Public Instruction and other Chief State School Officers on guidance for the assessment, accountability, and reporting requirements under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), reauthorized as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This memo outlined the expectations for (1) Accountability and School Identification, (2) Transparency and Reporting, (3) Assessments, and (4) Public Comment. The OPI is in the process of preparing communications and webinars to unpack this letter and what it means for Montana schools. Testing updates will be published in the materials link below. 

OPI's Strategic Waiver Process

As of 2/5/2021, the OPI has submitted its waiver application request to the U.S. Department of Education. This waiver application includes three reference materials, that is, (1) Superintendent Arntzen’s Montana Strategic Waiver Request, (2) Montana Waiver Application, and the (3) Public Comment Summary Report. The Montana Strategic Waiver Actions Timeline is specific to the 2020–2021 school year and reflects the state activities that led to Superintendent Arntzen’s December 2020 decision to submit a request for testing, accountability, and reporting federal waivers under 20 U.S. Code §7861 and ESEA-ESSA Section 8401.


When will schools know if testing is waived for the 2020-2021 school year? 

The Department of Education's Secretary of Education will issue a written determination regarding approval or disapproval of the OPI's waiver request by June 5, 2021. Schools are still expected to test this spring in the meantime as required by federal and state law. The first content area assessment opens on March 8, 2021. Other testing dates can be reviewed on the OPI's 2020-2021 Test Calendar.

How do I learn about testing updates? 

The OPI Assessment Unit will continue to share information to the field via the Assessment FAQ: COVID-19 Testing Alerts, Monthly Assessment Bulletin Newsletter, Monthly Webinars, COVID-19 State Standardized Testing Guidance, and other communication means. 

Who do I contact for additional information? 

The Assessment Team is here to help. Contact us at the Assessment Help Desk by email at or 1-844-867-2569.

Other Testing Events

On November 25, 2020, Commissioner James Woodworth at the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) with the support of the National Assessment Governing Board announced the decision to postpone the 2021 NAEP administration of mathematics and reading in grades 4 and 8. 
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
Learn more about each OPI Assessment Team Member and their program specifications on the OPI Statewide Testing Team Page

Pupil Transportation


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

On January 5, 2021, Superintendent Arntzen confirmed on January 5, 2021 that Montana would receive additional round of funding to address school and student needs. The Department of Education noted that Montana would benefit from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds as a result of CARES legislation passed in December 2020, in the amount of $170,099,465. 

ESSER II is being distributed to schools consistent with the original ESSER funding through the Title I formula that supports economically disadvantaged students. Combined with funds received from the first round of ESSER funding, Montana's total ESSER funding received to help Montana students is $210,849,163. 

Click the button to learn more about ESSER funding. 

ESSER Info button




School Finance Questions & Concerns

School Nutrition

Summer Food Service Program Allowed Until June 30, 2021

10/9/2020- The USDA extended multiple nationwide waivers and flexibilities. Districts running USDA Child Nutrition Programs may have options for feeding students through June 30, 2021. Please contact your regional specialist with questions. 

  • Districts may continue to operate the National School Lunch Program or switch to the Summer Food Service Program 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.
  • Districts that have already been approved to operate the School Year Summer Food Service Program 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 Summer Food Service Program, but want to make the change must first complete the School Year SFSP FormOnce this form is submitted, you will receive a call from your regional specialist to determine next steps.
The OPI School Nutrition program 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 NSLP or the SFSP. Please contact your regional specialist with questions. 
USDA Nationwide Waivers and ESEA Programs: Department of Education Presentation  

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:

FAQs & Other Guidance