Schools to open in fall

Gov. Doug Burgum
Gov. Doug Burgum(KFYR-TV)
Published: Jul. 14, 2020 at 5:04 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - As the state’s active COVID-19 cases climb to most ever, at 720, and another 55 new cases were reported Tuesday, state leaders are still planning for children to physically attend a school in the fall.

Before one student steps foot on any school campus this fall the district must have two different plans approved.

First, they must have a health and safety plan approved, and then they must have a distance learning plan on-file if they need to return to it sometime in the school year.

However, the Gov. Doug Burgum, R-N.D., won’t be the one approving these plans, unlike how it went in the spring.

Rather, he is leaving it up to the school boards themselves to approve all plans before the school year.

This strategy is similar to how the governor approached business reopenings. Rather than one statewide decision, he’s leaving it up to isolated local decision making.

“We flicked the light switch off in the spring. That was easy. Flicking it back on, we’re not turning it back on to the same thing that we were. We have to, just like every business has had to, just as every agency in the state of North Dakota has had to, is that k-12 schools have to think about how they’re going to have to deliver education in those buildings in a way that allows them to stay open,” Burgum said.

The guidelines that were released online do not offer many specifics.

They do not mention how a school should respond if they find a case within its walls, nor the effects of the positive rates within a community.

This is noteworthy because back in March, before any schools were shut down, the Governor said that if one case of coronavirus was found within a school, they would shut down for 48 hours; 2 cases were found to be shut down within 2 weeks.

Now, it's up to local school boards and local health authorities to decide when it's time to shut down.

“School boards and administrators will be making difficult decisions to ensure the health and well-being of their communities and limit the spread of COVID-19 while fulfilling their overall mission of educating students. They are in the best position to make the dozens and dozens of judgment calls that will be necessary every day,” State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler said.

Testing is not a component in any of the reopening plans.

However, Burgum said that testing should be done weekly for some students and some teachers

When it comes to closing a school sometime in the school year, that will come down to a public health emergency being called; not a decision at the governor's desk

Burgum did add that if he needed to he would step in and shut down the school if he thought local authorities were not making the proper decisions.

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