OPI's Back to School Compass

OPI Compass

August 17, 2022


  Calendar of Events


Superintendent's Message

When school doors open with the first bell ringing, the focus in Montana will be on student learning! The basics of math and reading are the keys to delivering educational excellence to our Montana students. In Article X, our Constitution states that it is “the goal of the people to establish a system of education which will develop the full educational potential of each person.” The 2022-2023 school year brings new opportunities and innovative solutions to that constitutional promise for the success of our students and teachers.



Please read Superintendent Arntzen's message, Constitutional Promise for a New School Year or listen here.


Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Funds - ESSER

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Reminder: The federal COVID relief ESSER I dollars need to be expended by September 30, 2022. The OPI team is available to assist with any questions school districts have on expending these ESSER I dollars. By the 15th of each month OPI will send an updated ESSER report to each Board Chair. These reports will show the allocation, expenditure, and balance for ESSER I, II, and III. An example report can be seen here.

The ESSER Funds Management Conference was held on August 9, 2022. This conference had 95 attendees from Montana, Colorado, Oregon, and Texas and included superintendents, trustees, administrators/directors, and clerks.

The top three topics of interest were:

  • Broadband
  • Audits
  • Egrant Amendments

This ESSER Virtual Conference was a kickoff event as the first part of a series of insightful monthly opportunities for school districts and OPI staff to work collaboratively. Please help determine the time and topics for these monthly guidance sessions by filling out THIS SURVEY to let OPI know what to discuss.

For more information on ESSER please click here or contact Wendi Fawns at wendi.fawns@mt.gov.


Broadband in Schools Survey


Victoria Hoefler, OPI's Broadband Data Specialist is bridging the gap between our schools and broadband connectivity. She has formulated a 30-second survey  that will evaluate our school’s broadband needs. 

Please watch Victoria’s message on broadband in schools here.


Chapter 55: School Accreditation

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In September 2020, the Montana Board of Public Education agreed to open the rules for recommend changes to ARM 10, Chapter 55: Accreditation Standards. Starting from September 2020 to December 2021, the OPI researched the needs of our schools and how to better serve our students through updates to our accreditation standards. An advisory task force to the Superintendent began reviewing rules for crucial changes beginning January 11, 2022, and concluded their recommendations on May 19, 2022.  Proposed changes to the accreditation standards require that the State Superintendent establish an independent negotiated rulemaking committee (“Committee”) under § 20-7-101, MCA. Thus, State Superintendent Arntzen selected 21 members to serve on that Committee in accordance with § 20-7-101(2), MCA. The Committee began on February 24, 2022, and finished on July 15, 2022. Detailed information about the members of the Committee, agendas, meeting minutes, and recordings can be found on the OPI website here

To view a five-page summary of the rule changes, please click here.

Draft Board of Public Education Timeline: Proposed Chapter 55 Rules:

  • Proposal notice to BPE for consideration - August 15, 2022
  • Education Advocates - August 16, 2022
  • Meeting with Lieutenant Governor - August 18, 2022
  • Education Advocates Q&A Session -  9:30 AM, August 24, 2022 (click for Zoom)
  • District Personnel Q&A Session - 4:30 PM, August 24, 2022 (click for Zoom)
  • BPE approves rulemaking timeline - September 14-15, 2022
  • BPE authorization to publish proposal notice, including public hearing date - September 14-15, 2022
  • Proposal notice to SOS for publication in MAR - September 27, 2022
  • MAR publication of proposal notice - October 7, 2022
  • Public hearing date - Oct./Nov. TBD, 2022
  • Final public comment deadline - November 4, 2022
  • Draft Notice and Economic Impact Statement to Interim Committee Before - Nov. 7, 2022
  • Adoption notice to BPE for consideration/respond to comments - Nov 17-18, 2022
  • Interim Committee Meeting - December 7, 2022
  • BPE authorization to publish adoption notice, including comments and responses - January 12-13, 2022
  • Adoption notice to SOS for publication in MAR - January 2023
  • MAR publication of adoption notice - January 2023
  • Effective date of rules - July 2023

*The Board of Public Education may revise the above italicized dates, based on the requirements of the Montana Administrative Procedure Act and the Negotiated Rulemaking statutes*

For more information, please contact Dr. Julie Murgel, Chief Operating Officer at julie.murgel@mt.gov or (406) 444-3172.


Montana Alternative Student Testing Pilot Program - MAST

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The MAST pilot program will be rolled out this new school year. The OPI is searching for school districts to participate in the initial pilot. This year will focus on math and reading for grades 5 and 7. The goal is to have 30 school districts and a total of 3200 students participate.

If your district or school wishes to participate please contact Sharyl Allen at sharyl.allen@mt.gov or (406) 444-5658.


School Safety and Student Voices

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As a new school year begins, the safety of our students and schools is a top priority. According to a 2021 study authored by the U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center, perpetrators of acts of violence often choose dates around the start or end of school breaks.

The OPI has many resources available to schools on the Emergency Planning and Safety website. SchoolSafety.gov also has resources for school safety including a Back to School Resources flyer.

Supporting our student's mental health is an important aspect of school safety. The School Climate and Safety Youth Advisory Board brings our Montana high school students together to discuss topics that are important to supporting student mental health and wellness. For more information on the value of our student's voices, please click here.

For more information, please contact Michele Henson, School Safety Program Manager, at Michele.Henson@mt.gov or (406) 595-1058 or Jamey Petersen, Coordinated School Health Unit Director, at jamey.petersen@mt.gov or (406) 437-1760.


School Nutrition


Free and reduced school meals will require that family income information be reported this coming school year. This requirement was waived during the last two school years. For the 2022-2023 school year, schools will be using a digital streamlined application for income determination of the Free and Reduced Meals program. 

School scan use the Direct Certification Application (DCA )to opt in and use the online free and reduced price application, process the applications that are submitted, and run reports. The eligibility math is done in the system.

For more information, please contact Bitsey Draur, IT Project Manager, at BDraur@mt.gov or (406) 461-5423.

Montana Schools Directory Updates

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Reminder: Please check your school's listing in the Montana Schools Directory to ensure that all information is accurate going into the 2022-2023 school year. Keeping this document up to date is a requirement under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The system is designed to allow Clerks/Business Managers to make changes. Instructions on how to make changes can be found here.

For additional help, please contact CentralUpdates@mt.gov.


2023 Teacher of the Year


A big thank you to Bill Stockton from Arlee High School for all he has done as our 2022 Teacher of the Year!

The finalists for the 2023 Teacher of the Year will be announced at the end of August. This year there were 57 nominees from all around our great state. Of the 57 nominees, 16 teachers filled out an application.

The committee members that will choose the finalists are:

  • Bill Stockton – 2022 Montana Teacher of the Year
  • Dylan Klapmeier – Education and Workforce Policy Advisor Montana Governor’s Office
  • McCall Flynn – Executive Director Montana Board of Public Education
  • Rob Watson – Executive Director School Administrators of Montana
  • Dr. Julie Murgel – OPI Leadership
  • Steve Meredith – OPI Digital Communications Team
  • Travis Anderson – Director Gear Up Montana Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education

Watch for the 2023 Teacher of the Year to be announced in September!

For more information, please contact Chris Noel, Teaching and Learning Senior Manager, at Chris.Noel@mt.gov or (406) 444-2765.


Montana Autism Education Project Trainings

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Many great training opportunities are available through the Montana Autism Education Program (MAEP):

Please visit the Montana Autism Education Project blog at:http://mtautism.opiconnect.org for a complete list of virtual trainings or contact Doug Doty, Autism Specialist, at ddoty@mt.gov or (406) 459-5303.


Offsite Instruction and Equivalency Opportunities for Students


The 2021 Legislature updated § 20-7-118, MCA, regarding “Offsite Provision Of Educational Services By School District”, through HB 246. The legislation’s new subsection (1)(d) allows a school district to provide offsite educational services if it limited those services to pupils who are:

  • attending school in the nearest district offering offsite instruction that agrees to enroll the pupil when the pupil's district of residence does not provide offsite instruction in an equivalent course in which the pupil is enrolled. A course is not equivalent if the course does not provide the same level of advantage on successful completion, including but not limited to dual credit, advanced placement, high school credits earned in middle school equivalent courses, and career certification.  Attendance in these cases is subject to approval of the trustees of the district providing the offsite instruction.

This addition indicates a legislative push to broaden equality of opportunity for students statewide by allowing students to enroll in equivalent courses in other districts when their own district does not provide those opportunities.

Although the Board of Public Education has not yet adopted rules “that specify standards for the provision of educational services at an offsite instructional setting” under § 20-7-118(1), MCA, the Office of Public Instruction provides this guidance to assist with the implementation of the most recent change by the Legislature.

Under § 20-7-118(1)(d), MCA, offsite instruction must:

  • Include the same level of advantage (e.g., dual credit, advanced placement, and career certification) on successful completion to all students.
  • Be agreed upon by the district offering the course.

Offsite instruction under that subsection is prohibited when it:

  • Includes courses that are equivalent to courses available at the home district.

An attendance agreement must be executed and approved by the offering district.

To assist with the provision of the offsite instruction, the home district and the offering district may also:

  • Include an interlocal or multi-district agreement that establishes the circumstances for provision of the offsite instruction.

Contact Deputy Superintendent, Sharyl Allen  (406) 444-5658 with comments or questions.


2022 Facts About Montana Education

Each year the OPI publishes a brochure with graduation, dropout, school staff, and public and private enrollment data. To view the 2022 brochure, please click here.

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OPI Organization Chart

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Please click here to view our interactive chart.


Countdown to the 68th Legislative Session

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There are 138 days until the legislative session begins.

Questions? Contact: 

Brian O'Leary, Communications Director, (406) 444-3559


The OPI is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to people with disabilities. If you need a reasonable accommodation, require an alternate format, or have questions concerning accessibility, contact the OPI ADA Coordinator, 406-444-3161, opiada@mt.gov, Relay Service: 711.