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Teaching, Learning & Supporting Students

Additional Guidance








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Academics & Remote Learning

Academic Programming Guidance 2021-2022  

New! Check out the OPI Acceleration Guidance Document to learn more about selecting instructional materials that incorporate acceleration and jump start your acceleration programs. 

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 

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. 

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 

View our professional learning options when developing professional learning plans for the 2021-2022 school year. 

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.  


School districts must plan on providing students the opportunity to assess when it is safe to do so. No student is expected to be brought into in-person learning for the sole purpose of taking statewide assessments. The safety, health, and well-being of school staff and students is the number one priority. To provide flexibility to schools and students across Montana, the OPI has extended all testing windows this spring to the greatest extent practicable using a balance with reporting information to families and educators. Further, the OPI will continue to allow the shortened version of the Smarter Balanced assessment for Math and English language arts (ELA) and medical exemptions related to the effects of COVID-19.

OPI Flexibility with State Assessments

  • Plan on delivering tests this spring when it is safe to do so. The participation requirement to administer state assessments is required under federal and state law
  • No remote proctoring (at-home testing) service for remote learners. School districts wishing to afford the opportunity for remote-only learners to participate in state assessments this spring can use the OPI’s Sample Family Letter. Other sample parent letters for state assessments can be found on the OPI’s Statewide Testing Parent Corner Page
  • Information on state testing can be found on the OPI Statewide Testing Page.

Who do I contact for additional information?

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

Pupil Transportation


Extended Stop Signal Arm Required on School Buses-Effective July 1, 2022

When a school bus route includes a bus stop that requires a school child to cross a roadway, the school bus must be equipped with an extended stop signal arm that partially obstructs the roadway. A school child may not cross a roadway to enter or exit from a school bus unless the roadway has been partially obstructed by the extended stop arm. 61-8-351(5)(a)(b)(c), MCA

The extended stop signal arm must be equipped with additional flashing red lights as specified in  61-9-402, MCA  and must be capable of extending a distance of at least 54 inches from the school bus at a height of not less than 36 inches.

The board of trustees shall approve each school bus stop that requires a school child to cross a roadway.

Contact:  Donell Rosenthal, 406-461-9316 State Director of Pupil Transportation

School Finance - Public & Non-Public Funding

COVID-Related Funding Received for Public and Non-Public Schools

COVID-Related Funding Received for Public and Non-Public Schools Graphic: Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) I = $41,295,230; ESSER II = $170,099,465; ESSER III = $382,019,236; Emergency Assistance for Non-Public Schools (EANS) = $24,679,709; Total Funds = $618,093,640

  • Funding for Public Schools
    • The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) passed in early March provides more COVID-related funding to public schools. Referred to as ESSER III (Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief), schools have at least through 2023 to expend these funds. Previously public schools received ESSER I and II funding. 
  • Funding for Private Schools
    • In the CARES legislation previously signed in December, funding was provided for private and home schools through the Emergency Assistance and Non-Public Schools (EANS) Act.

ESSER (Public) Funding Info     EANS (Private) Funding Info



School Finance Questions & Concerns

School Nutrition

School Nutrition Programs Waivers for the 2021-22 School Year


The US Department of Agriculture recently announced new and extended school nutrition waivers for the 2021-2022 school year for schools participating in the OPI School Nutrition Programs. These waivers continue to offer flexibility in feeding children and meeting local needs.

Many of these flexibilities are extensions of existing waivers. For example, schools can continue to offer grab and go meals if needed, parents or guardians can pick up meals to take home to their children, and schools can establish meal service times that support streamlined access to nutritious meals. Additionally, specific meal pattern flexibilities have been extended, allowing for increased food choices to support alternative meal service options. 

In addition, a waiver will allow school districts to access the new Seamless Summer Option during the school year. Typically, schools operate the National School Lunch Program during the school year. This new program removes student income eligibility requirements and will provide a higher meal reimbursement rate to schools. 

To ensure Montana schools are aware of and prepared for this new program, OPI is currently working on administrative and technology changes to existing systems to accommodate the new Seamless Summer Option. These changes will allow school districts to sign up and apply for this option. OPI School Nutrition Programs staff will communicate with districts when they are prepared to accept Seamless Summer Option applications for the 2021-2022 school year. 


Guidance for What School Nutrition Professionals and Volunteers at Schools Need to Know about COVID-19 

CDC recently updated the guidance on the What School Nutrition Professionals and Volunteers at Schools Need to Know about COVID-19 web page

School administrators and operators of school nutrition programs can use this information to reduce the risk of COVID-19 among employees and volunteers preparing and serving meals, and the students, families, and other school staff who support or participate in school meals programs.

Key updates include 

  • Expanded guidance on healthy behaviors to reduce transmission among school nutrition employees and volunteers. 
  • Emphasis that individuals maintain 6 feet apart to the greatest extent possible during mealtimes. 
  • Recommending that school prioritize outdoor serving and seating models or increase ventilation in indoor areas used for mealtimes.
  • Recommending that schools use unused or underutilized spaces during mealtimes. 
  • Emphasizing that routine cleaning, sanitizing, or disinfecting procedures that local and state health agencies require for food safety are adequate to sufficiently reduce the risk of becoming infected with COVID-19. These procedures should be combined with other prevention measures, such as wearing a mask, keeping physical distance, and hand washing. If someone is known or suspected to have COVID-19, additional cleaning and disinfection procedures are needed. 
  • Removing recommendations for physical barriers such as partitions between seats. This is because stronger scientific evidence supports prioritizing prevention measures such as masks, distancing, hand hygiene, and ventilation. However, CDC is not recommending against the use of physical barriers. Schools may decide to use or continue using physical barriers if they find them helpful to reduce the risk of transmission. The guidance does clarify when physical barriers may be useful including in high-traffic areas where it is difficult for people to remain at least 6 feet apart (e.g., cash registers, workstations, food pickup areas). 
  • Recommending grab-and-go and/or individually plated meals. However, this updated guidance does provide additional information on how to safely have self-service food and drink options if state and local public health departments have determined it is safe use. If traditional self-serve stations such as hot and cold food bars, salad or condiment bars are offered schools should use the following prevention strategies: 
  1. Require students and staff to wear a mask over the nose and mouth when waiting in line and when serving themselves food. 
  2. Provide handwashing stations or hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol and encourage use before use of self-service station. 
  3. Encourage students and staff remain at least 6 feet apart while waiting in line by providing physical guidance and visual cues, such as tape or graphics on floors or sidewalks and signs on walls. 
  4. If shared objects (e.g., utensils, tongs) are used, continue to replace according to food safety code.
  5. Ensure that used or dirty non-disposable food service items are handled with gloves and washed, rinsed, and sanitized to meet food safety requirements. Employees and volunteers should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after removing their gloves or after handling used or dirty food service items. 
  6. Protect unpackaged food items from contamination by providing barrier, such as sneeze shield.

School Safety

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: SPEDCOVID@mt.gov.

FAQ's & Other Guidance