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Local schools will make decisions re: COVID protocols

Don Kates

As schools prepare for their fall semester reopening, it will be up to each local school board to decide what kind of COVID-19 protocols will be in place, now that the Delta variant is spreading.

The actions of the 2021 Legislature caused the change.

"There isn't a state health officer, or any state elected official, that can make those decisions about mask wearing, or any of those mitigation strategies," said State School Superintendent Kirsten Baesler. "Some local school districts may embrace that ability and that empowerment to make those decisions locally. Others may have wanted stronger state guidance. Our Legislature was very clear in their decision this spring, that these were to be made locally."

Baesler said her office will provide resources for local schools, to help them make those decisions. And she said schools can consult CDC guidelines. But she emphasizes that these are just guidelines.

North Dakota’s State Health Officer says his department stands ready to give local schools some guidance in dealing with COVID-19 related issues.

"We want to make sure they are empowered to make their own decisions," said Dr. Nizar Wehbi. "We're here to help, support and provide data and information. But at the end of the day, it is their decision, and what fits their community and situation."

Wehbi said there is concern about the uptick in COVID cases, because of the Delta variant.

"It is something we have to be vigilant, and aware of," Wehbi said.

Meanwhile, Baesler said she’s sensing a lot of excitement among teachers, principals and school boards to get started. At a meeting of state school leaders in Bismarck, Baesler said she asked a number of those attending about the starting of school.

"I received responses like, 'Oh yeah, can't wait to start, bring it on, let's do this," Baesler said.

Baesler said there was so much uncertainty last year, over whether schools would have to offer on-line learning, hybrid (a mix of on-line and in-person instruction).

"There isn't that uncertainty this year," Baesler said. "Everhbody knows they're going back to school."

Baesler said the goal is to have the safest and most engaging school environments for the students.

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