schools

Montana education officials announced Thursday that two task forces will develop guidance on how the state’s public schools can safely reopen their doors next fall.

As Montana’s public schools close out the school year, the state is turning its attention to the fall, when many districts are expected to welcome students back into their buildings one way or another.

Montana public school districts will receive roughly $41 million of relief funding in about two weeks. Schools say they need that money for things like buying masks, special cleaning equipment and supplies so they can open in the fall. New guidance from the U.S. Department of Education says private school students will receive an increased share of that funding.

Montana Public Radio’s Aaron Bolton spoke with MTPR News Director Corin-Cates Carney to explain.

A generic photo of a school crossing sign.
Rafael Sato / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

President Donald Trump says states should “seriously consider” reopening their public schools before the end of the academic year, even though dozens already have said it would be unsafe for students to return until the summer or fall.

Public K-12 schools in Montana will have the option of reopening their doors to students May 7. Gov. Steve Bullock made that announcement Wednesday, about five weeks after ordering their closure due to coronavirus concerns.

After the speedy shift to online learning amid the coronavirus pandemic, many school districts across the state say it would be easier to finish out the school year that way instead of returning to classrooms.

Montana’s top K-12 education official is asking Gov. Steve Bullock to give districts that flexibility if he lifts his emergency school closure order.

Even as Montana's public K-12 schools sit closed over coronavirus concerns, work on the school system continues. Newly released data from the state of Montana provides a picture of just how much it costs to educate the state's students.

Released this week, the state's "report card" shows it cost an average of $10,474.64 to educate each student in the public school system last year. The actual cost varies depending on districts or schools.

The U.S. Department of Education has agreed to delay a new rule that could pull significant funding from rural and low-income schools in Montana. The delay follows objections this week from Montana’s U.S. Senators and other high ranking members of Congress.

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Wednesday in a major case that could dramatically alter the line separating church and state.

At issue is a Montana state constitutional amendment that bars direct and indirect taxpayer aid to religious institutions. Conservative religious groups and advocates of school choice are challenging the "no-aid" provision.

The inaugural Jeremy Bullock Safe Schools Summit held in Butte this week brought around 150 teachers, school administrators, law enforcement and mental health workers together to talk through the growing concern about violence in schools. The summit is named after Jeremy Bullock, an 11-year-old boy shot and killed on a school playground in Butte 25 years ago.

Montana Public Radio's Corin Cates-Carney spoke with Jeremy's parents Robin and Bill Bullock during the convention this week.

Martin Bekkelund / Flickr

Earlier this month, Billings Public Schools implemented a new filter system that blocks websites based on a list of keywords.

A few days later, CounterPunch magazine reported that students were also unable to access certain websites addressing pro-LGBTQ issues.

Twelfth-grader Clara Bentler, a student leader at Billings Senior High School, says a teacher showed her the list of blocked keywords and key phrases.