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. 

Scenario 1: Buildings Closed: All students remote learning.

Academic Programming

*When implementing remote learning, note available flexibility provided by MCA 20-1-101 (5)(14) and 20-7-118 that offsite learning is specifically authorized as a means of meeting the aggregate hours of instruction.

Remote Learning Platforms


  • Consider using online learning platforms previously used in the face-to-face classroom setting.
  • Ensure all teachers and administrators sustain usage of the agreed upon platform.
  • Provide professional development for teachers on the selected learning platform.
  • Collaborate with teachers to ensure required professional development is within negotiated contracts.
  • Provide parent professional development and education on different grading models, technology, platforms, educational philosophies, and reasoning.
  • Provide mentor programs for teachers new to the profession, or any teacher who is facing challenges with technology or platforms.
  • Provide tutorials for all utilized technology for staff, families, and students (e.g., how to access, check, submit instructional materials).

Instructional Delivery: Remote Learning


  • Educational leadership identifies steps to ensure instructional integrity.
  • Develop guidelines for teachers in synchronous and/or asynchronous delivery, keeping in mind equity with internet access and device availability.
  • Create guidelines for asynchronous instructions including the use of teacher-made videos, professional videos, etc.
  • Create guidelines for synchronous instructions including recording length and attendance, and by providing multiple synchronous opportunities so families can juggle multiple schedules, etc.
  • Provide all synchronous instruction in optional asynchronous formats.
  • Provide teacher training in best practice in delivery methods virtually.
  • Communicate standards and expectations for lesson delivery to parents and students.
  • Provide students and staff with materials (technology, lab supplies, paper copies) for remote learning.
  • Provide guidelines for length of instruction and activities per day/week (note minute recommendation under roles and responsibility).
  • Provide consistent expectations and equitable policy for late work.
  • Identify priority standards and incorporate previous grade content into grade-level standards. Grade level content should always be the focus.
  • Find ways to assess and formatively assess students regularly to confirm essential benchmarks.
  • Facilitate teacher engagement in standards (benchmark) priority work during the summer of 2020 to ensure delivered learning is focused and efficient (consult contract negotiations).
  • Consider forming a committee of teachers to unpack and prioritize standards across content areas and grade levels.
  • Develop appropriate scope and sequence for the 2020-21 school year.
  • Adjust scope and sequence as needed based on student beginning-of-year benchmark assessments.
  • Be flexible and open to new grading systems (e.g., proficiency-based, standards-based grading; Personalized/proficiency-based learning both at the individual level and as an exception to aggregate hours of instruction are allowed under MCA 20-9-311 (4) (d and Rule 10.55.906).
  • Be consistent and communicative in implementation of the grading system.
  • Update grading platforms/tools.
  • Ensure assessments match the grading system.
  • Provide professional development to teachers on any newly adopted grading system.
  • Communicate to families and students any changes and implications of newly adopted grading systems.
  • Provide professional development on how to differentiate instruction in remote settings.
  • Provide time for co-planning with teachers.
  • Teachers should include group work so that students can communicate and get to know each other.
  • Provide families with clear, concise, essential standards and/or benchmarks for each grade level or course.
  • Encourage teachers to provide families with options to individualize learning experiences that best suit their family needs.
  • If adopting new textbooks, consider ones with easy-to-use online access and accommodations (e.g. read aloud capabilities).

Student Assessment

  • Develop a yearlong plan for assessing student proficiency
  • Plan to conduct diagnostic assessments.
  • Communicate and organize all assessments prior to lesson design.
  • Assess students at the beginning of the school year to identify current student proficiency.
  • Ensure assessments align with Montana content standards.
  • Establish procedures to check weekly for student proficiency. Adjust instruction accordingly.

Scenario 2: A mixed model of traditional and off-site learning.

Academic and Extracurricular Programming

**When providing remote learning to students, please review Scenario 1’s Academic Programming prior to reviewing recommendations for Scenario 2

Program considerations

  • Accommodations for students, teachers, and staff in an at-risk group:
    • Schools that reopen will need to take into consideration that some teachers and staff will fall into a health risk category. These individuals should have additional accommodations including teaching classes remotely, utilizing a larger classroom where physical distancing can be maintained, or given an option not to return until the risks are reduced.
    • Students who are high risk or who have family members who are high risk, should not be penalized for failing to attend and should continue to receive remote support.
  • Accommodations should also be extended to students and staff who are required to quarantine due to exposure or potential exposure.
  • Modify extracurricular activities.
  • Refer to the Guidance for Opening up High School Athletics and Activities from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) for more information on safety precautions for athletic training and events for Scenario 2.
  • Blended learning should allow for learning in the classroom with meaningful practice at home (purposeful discussions/activities through an online platform).
  • Health enhancement teachers should provide to students current and medically accurate information regarding infectious and communicable diseases; including the transmission and prevention of diseases, as required by the Montana Health Enhancement Standards.
  • Pursue virtual activities and events in lieu of field trips, student assemblies, special performances, school-wide parent meetings, and spirit nights.
  • Organize pre-developed study packets and suggested activities for students and parents in case of a second closure of schools due to re-emergence of the virus and/or for students who remain in the remote learning environments due to individual/family high-risk categories.
  • Consider alternative schedules for class instruction.
  • Alter the bell schedule to limit the number of students in transit between classes at any one time.
  • Realign a bell schedule to include times for handwashing/sanitizing. School districts should create a unique plan that is appropriate for their school size.
    • Example: create specific sanitation times during the school day.
    • Example: stagger transition times by wing/area of the school/last name initial/grade level, etc.

Physical Education (PE)

  • Make time for wiping down and sanitizing areas.
  • Be thoughtful of passing areas between classes and allowing for corridors that maintain physical distancing recommendations.
  • Develop practices that address class size.
  • Ensure handwashing occurs before and after PE class.
  • Take home clothing used for PE class; clothing should not be kept in locker rooms.
  • Allow time for cleaning of shared equipment between classes.
  • Promote physical distancing in areas of congregation (e.g., locker rooms).
  • Consider the current phase of the pandemic and whether competition is appropriate per MHSA guidelines. This would include potential isolation and quarantine measures that could arise because of travel, and additional screening that may be required because of travel.
  • Encourage outdoor and individual activities when possible.

Music – vocal, instrumental, and general

  • Emphasize physical distancing for vocal and instrumental music classes according to spatial allowances and room size.
  • Allow for the cleaning and sanitizing of equipment before and after use.
  • Provide instruction for healthy practices to use when cleaning personal instruments.

Career and Technical Education (CTE) and Career and Technical Student Organization (CTSO)

  • Sanitize materials/tools before and after competitions and entrance to classrooms.
  • Instruct students to clean devices and space before and after class.
  • Limit equipment sharing by students to include both hand tools, power equipment, culinary tools, computers, etc. as well as protective gear, safety glasses, welding helmets, shop coats, smocks, ear protection, etc.
    • Some CTE equipment may have many small pieces that may require use of differentiated sanitization methods.
  • Limit class sizes to reduce the number of items used by multiple students.
  • Adjust class size and classroom layouts to comply with physical distancing recommendations.

Scenario 3: A mixed model of traditional and remote learning with an increased number of students in school buildings.

Academic and Extracurricular Programming

  • Organized youth activities should avoid gathering in groups of more than 50 people in circumstances that do not readily allow for appropriate physical distancing.

  • Pursue options to convene sporting events and participation in sports activities in ways that minimize the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to players, families, coaches, and communities. Limit gatherings, events, and extracurricular activities to those who can maintain physical distancing, and support proper hand hygiene.

  • Refer to the Guidance for Opening up High School Athletics and Activities for more information on safety precautions for athletic training and events for Scenario 3.

  • If reinstating indoor physical education for students, ensure frequent disinfecting of articles such as mats and athletic equipment BEFORE and BETWEEN classes.

Scenario 4: Near full capacity of attendance and operations in a traditional setting, with remote learning for students not onsite.

Academic and Extracurricular Programming


  • When providing remote learning to students, please review Scenario 1-3 Academic Programming.


2021 Summer Learning & Enrichment: State Guidance for District and School Leaders

The 2021 Summer Learning & Enrichment: State Guidance for District and School Leaders offers support as schools plan for summer 2021 learning opportunities to meet the most pressing needs of students and teachers in this uniquely challenging school year. The resources and considerations in this document are based on leading research and evidence-based, best practices for summer learning and closing learning gaps. It also includes guidance on how to use ESSER funding to integrate school and community resources to create innovative summer learning programs. 

One Page Summary of the 2021 Summer Learning & Enrichment document. 

Planning for Learning During the 20-21 School Year

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 planning for academic success for all students. Educational equity for all Montana students is essential. All resources have been selected because of their attention to equitable access to a high-quality education. 


  • Guiding documents for school leaders in designing plans for 2020-21. Guiding documents for operations, academics, student, family and staff support and professional development and training. 
  • The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences funds a network of 10 Regional Educational Laboratories (RELs). Each REL serves a designated region of the country and works with educators and policymakers to support a more evidence-based education system. In response to COVID-19, the RELs have collaborated to produce this series of evidence-based resources and guidance about teaching and learning in a remote environment, as well as other considerations brought by the pandemic.
  • The New Teacher Project’s (TNTP) Learning Acceleration Guide: Planning for Acceleration in the 2020-2021 School Year guides school leadership teams through the process of creating a student learning acceleration plan while helping teams tackle barriers that may affect the outcome of the plan.

CCSSO Restart & Recovery: Considerations for Teaching and Learning (Academic Guidance) 

  • This live Google document takes educators through planning, launching and sustaining phases with focus areas of curriculum and instruction, assessment and professional learning. More information can be found in their Google folder
  • This document names the instructional content priorities in mathematics (K–8) and ELA/literacy (K–12). It provides guidance for the field about the content priorities by leveraging the structure and emphases of college- and career-ready mathematics and ELA/literacy standards. 

EdReport's Instructional Materials during Remote Learning: Reflection and Planning Tools

  • EdReport's Instructional Materials during Remote Learning: Reflection and Planning Tools guides school leadership through questions related to their knowledge of currently available instructional materials in English Language Arts (ELA), mathematics, and science, the technical capacity of the district, and what is known about the communities the district serves. 
  • This document focuses on six principles and strategies for addressing unfinished learning and how to support grade transitions through strategic instruction.

Five Formative Assessment Strategies to Improve Distance Learning Outcomes for Students with Disabilities (NCEO Brief #20) 

  • CCSSO document 
  • These national standards are for Online Teaching, Online Courses and Online Programs. Theses standards are to ensure high-quality online learning for all. 
Additional planning resources for math can be found on the Mathematics Standards page.

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. 


Ed Ready Montana

  • EdReady Montana is a free Montana-based program through MTDA ready to help schools with: 
    • support for math programming in grades 5 to 12 identifying and addressing gaps and gains for fall, ACT Skill Prep, and providing supplemental class material for online/blended or face to face instruction. 
    • support for English programming in grades 9 to 12 to emphasize critical reading and effective writing skills, ACT Still Prep, and providing supplemental class material for online/blended or face to face instruction.

New Classroom’s Diagnostics and Academic Road Map 

  • New Classrooms is offering a free diagnostics and planning tool for Math grades 5 and up. For more information on the free diagnostic tools and other supports complete this form

SBAC Digital Library/Tools for Teachers and Allowed Use of Interim Assessment Tools

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 leadership. Some are links to online courses while others may be upcoming webinars and or recordings. 


Corwin Distance Learning Playbook

  • Distance Learning Playbook Certification Training – a customized training certifying members of your staff to deliver this critically important work, providing internal capacity, reaching more teachers, and ultimately impacting students in a positive way.

OPI Teacher Learning Hub - The Hub offers Online courses on a range of topics, such as introduction to course design, standards-based grading and reporting, digital accessibility, and specific tech tools. Courses are free.

  • Introduction to Online Course Design -This brief course will take you through everything you need to know to get started creating your own online course - from the basic principles of online learning, storyboarding, delivering content and building interaction.

Professional Development Options for Online Teaching

  • Summary of available platform specific PD including effective online pedagogy and supporting specific student population.
  • Center for Assessment Learning Modules: Using Classroom Assessment to Identify Student Learning Gaps, Strengths and Needs for Instructional Purposes
  • This is an excellent summary of engaging "how to" videos for a variety of platforms from Google to Flipgrid. 

OPI Professional Learning Opportunities Portal

  • The Portal is a centralized website for all educator professional learning within the state of Montana. Many Montana-based professional learning providers are modifying face-to-face plans to include online options. The site updated daily with a wide variety of opportunities available.

  • Digital Promise has a multitude of professional learning in topics related to innovation and closing the digital learning gap. Many webinars are free, and the microcredentials that educators can earn are competency-based. Digital Promise is also committed to data interoperability and partners with IMS Global on data interoperability standards.

ISTE University

  • International Society for Technology in Education(ISTE) online courses on essential topics for educators, including assessing learning in online environments, creating community in online courses, designing online learning experiences, ensuring equity and inclusion in online learning, and more! Courses are generally $19 - $25 per course.

Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Program Webinars

  • Webinars from leading educational experts on current educational hot topics and research. Includes evidence-based resources for responding to COVID.

Remote Learning 101

  • Recommended by our Career, Technical, and Adult Education Unit, this free course provides educators with lots of practical tips, ideas, and resources to make a plan for remote learning.

How do I teach students who are in physical school and remote... at the same time?

  • This short article discusses the differences between Face to Face, Blended and Online learning. It breaks down blended learning into a variety of models that can be done for asynchronously for both for students who are face to face and those who are online. 

Montana Specific Support 

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


Montana Digital Academy and EdReady Montana

  • The Montana Digital Academy (MTDA) provides online educational opportunities to Montana students and schools. Courses are taught exclusively by Montana public school teachers. EdReady also offers free online math and English tutoring for Montana students.

Montana PBS LearningMedia

  • MontanaPBS and PBS have curated free, standards-aligned videos, lesson plans, and more for Montana educators. The resources are easy to integrate into various learning management systems. They also have a Montana PBS Learn at home site as a resource for educators and parents! 

Montana Historical Society