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North Central North Dakota schools learn from past year, move forward

Published: Mar. 11, 2021 at 2:48 PM CST
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MINOT, N.D. – Last March, students were preparing for a normal spring break, excited to have time off school and be with friends and family.

However, that week for many across the country was far from ordinary.

No one expected the news to break that school would be cancelled indefinitely.

Your News Leader spoke with school administrators and students about how one year ago today, their lives changed forever.

On March 15, 2020, thousands of North Dakotans anxiously tuned into their televisions as Gov. Doug Burgum R-N.D. temporarily shut down schools.

“Honestly, it was like a weight almost, like something just went down on you, you could just feel just dread,” said Isabella Rowland, a student at Velva High School.

“I was really scared for like my family and like some of my siblings at home. My sister was pregnant at the time, so she was having a baby during the pandemic. So I was nervous for them and every one of my friends,” said Destiny Bauer, a student at Velva High School.

Little did educators across the state know, this temporary shutdown would end up lasting a while.

“You were sending kids home, and they didn’t even have a chance to pack up their lockers or clean out their desk. We did that as a staff and delivered all of their personal belongings and possessions on a bus. That was a rather abrupt ending,” said Dave Schoch, superintendent of Velva Public Schools.

On May 1, Burgum permanently cancelled in-person learning for the rest of the year.

“We are announcing today that we are going to continue with school distance learning for the rest of the year. This is a decision to remain with distance learning was made after much deliberation,” said Burgum.

For many districts, transitioning to online learning was not the only challenge. Schools had to make sure students had access to internet and food.

“Those bus drivers really became food delivery people. So just logistically figuring out who needed lunch being able to get that lunch to them, to their home. I can remember about 50 to 60 families we delivered directly to their door,” said Mike McNeff, superintendent of Rugby Public Schools.

Finishing up the school year online, many school administrators knew it would be an uphill climb preparing for the fall, knowing they had to get kids back into the classrooms.

“When are reintegration committee met, we decided roll the dice and let’s start with kids. We were the only one of the big class A schools that did that and we have been in session every day since we began the school year and that has been our goal since day one, keep the kids in school,” said Dr. Mark Vollmer, superintendent of Minot Public Schools.

School districts across the state went into the fall semester, taking it day by day, facing challenges but overcoming them. Learning from the past year, but ready to move forward.

As springs rolls around the corner, Minot, Velva and Rugby Public Schools are preparing to have a prom and a graduation ceremony, giving high school seniors one last somewhat normal memorable experience.

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