COVID-19 Information for Schools

Last Updated: April 3, 2020 8:00AM

 


 

Important Teleconference (Zoom) Privacy and Security Recomendations 

On March 30, 2020, the FBI released an article, warning users of teleconferencing sessions being hijacked (also being referred to as “Zoom-bombing”) all over the nation. The FBI has received multiple reports of conferences being disrupted by pornographic and/or hate images and threatening language. In the wake of reports of this activity being reported to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaints Center (IC3 -ic3.gov), they have published the following recommendations:

  • Do not make meetings or classrooms public. In Zoom, there are two options to make a meeting private: require a meeting password or use the waiting room feature and control the admittance of guests.
  • Do not share a link to a teleconference or classroom on an unrestricted publicly available social media post. Provide the link directly to specific people.
  • Manage screensharing options. In Zoom, change screensharing to “Host Only.”
  • Ensure users are using the updated version of remote access/meeting applications. In January 2020, Zoom updated their software. In their security update, the teleconference software provider added passwords by default for meetings and disabled the ability to randomly scan for meetings to join.
  • Lastly, ensure that your organization’s telework policy or guide addresses requirements for physical and information security.

CARES Act & School Emergency Relief Funds

With passage of the CARES Act, Montana schools will receive federal emergency funds to help school districts respond to the impact of COVID-19. 

Here's a look at the support CARES provides:

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

Read more details in the CARES Act Guidance Document

 


 


School Plans & Surveys:

 

 

School Closures

On March 15th, the Governor ordered all K-12 public schools to be closed statewide through March 27th.  On March 24, the Governor extended school closures through April 10th. The OPI continues to provide support and resources as schools adjust to the longer closure.  

On March 26th, the Governor issued a "Stay at Home” directive.  The new directive does not change how schools are operating.  Schools should continue to operate under the plans submitted to the Governor and all previous education related directives from the Governor.  As it relates to schools, the new order says: 

“Educational institutions, including public and private pre-K-12 schools, colleges, and universities, for the purpose of facilitating remote learning, performing critical research, or performing other essential functions consistent with prior directives on school closures and the continued provision of certain services, provided that social distancing of six-fee per person is maintained to the greatest extent possible. This directive is consistent with and does not amend or supersede the March 24th or April 10th directives."

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OPI Services

At this time the OPI will continue to provide services and support to schools with some exceptions:

OPI offices are closed to the public and most OPI staff are working remotely and providing services via telephone and computer.  Please click on the "Contact" button at the top of this page if you need to contact a specific person at the OPI.  All travel to schools by OPI employees is suspended until April 17th.  This includes monitoring visits and technical assistance; however, we will provide these services remotely whenever possible.

Parents:  Your child's school or district should be your first source of information about what services your school or district is offering during the closure.  The OPI has published extensive Online Learning Resources for School Leaders, Teachers & Parents.

 

For general questions and inquiries related to COVID-19, please email us at OPICOVID19@mt.gov.

 

 

 


 

 

Assessment and Accountability

The United States Department of Education has approved the OPI’s request to waive requirements for the 2019-2020 school year assessment, accountability, and reporting for states and local education agencies under ESSA.  The waiver still requires the OPI to solicit public comment on the request.  Any comments on this waiver should be directed to essainput@mt.gov. 

Please see the Assessment FAQ for the latest information.

Email the Assessment Help Desk or call us at 1-844-867-2569 if you have other questions or concerns regarding Assessment.

 

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Finance

CARES Act Guidance Document

 

The Single Audit Deadline REMAINS March 31, 2020 - The Local Government Services (LGS) Bureau has received several inquiries about the upcoming March 31, 2020 federal single audit deadline:  "LGS cannot  extend a federal deadline, however, we do understand how the current crisis is impacting the completion and submission of audit reports and expect audit reports will be submitted after the March 31 deadline.  There is not a State penalty for late audit reports; LGS will not be sending delinquent audit report notices; and we will work with all entities and auditors needing our assistance. "  Please read the March 24, 2020 Single Audit Deadline memo published by LGS for more information.

Student Proficiency Guidance

School Finance Questions & Concerns

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School Nutrition

According to guidance from the USDA, if school facilities are closed unexpectedly during the school year for reasons provided in 42 U.S.C. 1761(c)(1), schools have options for feeding students.  Schools are not required to provide meal service during school closures.  Programs should contact your regional specialist directly for other school nutrition questions & concerns.

Complete the School Nutrition Waiver Survey to report on meal service during school facility closure and to request participation in the Area Eligibility Waiver, Parent Guardian Meal Pickup Waiver, and/or Meal Pattern Waiver. 

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Transportation

Pupil Transportation Frequently Asked Questions

 

 

 

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Special Education

This quickly evolving situation is generating significant federal attention and new guidance.  Because much of the new guidance is related to core fundamental components of the IDEA, Office of Civil Rights, the Federal Educational Rights to Privacy Act, as well as numerous other federal laws, agency regulations and guidance, we are directing districts with questions regarding servicing students with disabilities to the OPI's Special Education COVID 19 information page.  Here you will find current guidance.  New guidance, resources, and tools will be added as they become available.

We are also asking that any questions regarding serving students with disabilities during this pandemic be sent to SPEDCOVID@mt.gov.

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Other Questions & Guidance