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Montana Ed Leaders Recommend Extending Distance Learning

Education leaders from around Montana have recommended extending distance learning through the end of the school year. The group of leaders, which includes representatives from the Office of Public Instruction, the Board of Public Education and the Montana Public Education Center, released a letter April 9 addressed to all district and county school superintendents. It states that national health agencies and organizations are recommending that distancing guidelines remain in place through May and possibly longer. The letter adds that graduation ceremonies should be postponed.

“At this time, national health authorities are stating that social distancing recommendations will be in place at least through May and possibly into the summer. We can expect that even if the Governor’s ‘Stay At Home’ and ‘School Closure’ directives are lifted after April 24th, that social distancing guidelines will still be recommended.”

Governor Steve Bullock held a town hall meeting by telephone April 13 and he was asked about his closure of the public school system. He refused to rule out sending students back into schools and said he will continue to monitor the situation on a two-week basis. His closure order is in place until April 24.

OPI released an email to media outlets April 10: “If the Governor’s ‘Stay At Home’ and ‘School Closure’ orders are not extended through the remainder of the school year, of course, local districts are welcome to proceed however they would like as Montana is a local control state. However, we cannot imagine a scenario where social distancing will not be recommended or required in the months of May, June or even further into the summer, making traditional graduation ceremonies and traditional moves back into classrooms unlikely.” The letter from leaders concludes, “We advise that you plan to continue your distance learning plans through the remainder of this school year and also plan to not hold large-scale in-person graduation ceremonies. We encourage you to postpone graduation ceremonies until later in the year or come up with alternative plans to honor your graduates, ensuring equity in recognition for all students, including special education students.”

Additional signatories to the letter include representatives from the Montana Association of School Business Officials, School Administrators of Montana, Montana Rural Education Association, Montana Quality Education Coalition, Montana Federation of Public Employees and the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

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