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North Dakota school boards will have control as classes start this fall

Governor Doug Burgum says when school was closed this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was the first time any such move had ever happened in North Dakota.

He says now - schools will be moving forward with their own plans to deliver education to the state's 120,000 K-12 students. But he says opening schools won't be as easy as closing them.

"We flipped the light switch off in the spring, that was easy. Flicking it back on in the fall won't be turning it back on to the same thing we had before. K-12 schools have to think about how they're going to deliver education in those buildings in a way that allows them to stay open."

Burgum says there are still rural school districts that have been largely untouched by the novel coronavirus - in counties that have recorded few, if any cases of COVID-19. He says those district's reopening plans will look much different from a school district in a more heavily populated area where the spread of the virus has been more prevalent. He says it is this reason each district will have local control.

State school superintendent Kirsten Baesler says the plans to reopen have been in the works since the spring, and have evolved with the pandemic.

"This plan allows for consideration of local context and local conditions. It puts decisions in the hands of local school boards, administrators, in consultation with their local health units, families, teachers and students."

Baesler says districts will have the options to deliver in person instruction or distance learning programs, or even hybrids of the two.

"Each district must develop a health and safety plan, and update their distance learning plans. Both plans must be created in consultation with faculty, family, staff, students, and the local health public units. And those plans must be published on the district's website."

Baesler says the plans will continue to evolve throughout the summer and fall in order to qualify for student foundation aid payments. She also says if a school board opts to start earlier or later than usual if their plans allow.

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