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OPI and Montana district superintendents answer questions about COVID-19 concerns

Posted at 1:34 PM, Mar 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-13 16:39:36-04

HELENA — The Office of Public Instruction hosted a conference call with Montana’s district superintendents Friday morning to provide updates and answer questions related to COVID-19.

OPI and DPPHS had posted a complete list of guidance for schools here.

“Local school leaders are on the front lines of keeping their students safe while also ensuring that they receive education services,” Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen said Friday. “I commend local leaders for their tremendous responses to the rapidly changing and unique circumstances they are facing. The OPI is here to serve and partner with local communities as they respond to the COVID-19 outbreak and we will work to ensure that they continue to receive funding and support as decisions are made at either the state or local level to close schools.”

Discussions between the Montana Federation of Public Employees, School Administrators of Montana, the Montana Quality Education Coalition met with OPI specialists and DPHHS were focused on procedures for school closures in Montana, continuing education services in response to a closure, school nutrition, and funding according to a press release.

The Governor created a coronavirus task force last week which the OPI serves on and he declared a state of emergency.

The Governor’s emergency declaration Thursday does not direct school closures currently but OPI staff are in communication with the Governor’s Office as the situation evolves. The OPI has also submitted a waiver request to the USDA to allow school nutrition flexibility so that children can still receive meals according to the release.

Currently, Montana does not have any confirmed cases of COVID-19 so now is the time for local communities and state leaders to prepare. All decisions should be based on the best available data from local, state and federal health authorities. District and community leaders are also encouraged to work with their neighboring communities in planning.

MTN News will keep the community updated on school closures and new information as it comes available.