BISMARCK, N.D. - In a series of executive orders announced Thursday, Gov. Doug Burgum extended school closures “until further notice” and ordered entertainment venues like movie theatres and on-site restaurants and bars to cease their in-dining options. However, food establishments are still allowed to offer take-out and delivery options.
Schools have until March 27 to come up with a plan, and then have it be approved by the government, and have that plan ready to go and be implemented by April 1. Not necessarily a plan of how to re-open schools, but plans on how to continue educational services for students. And the governor stressed that there is a need for innovative learning including online services and other distance learning practices while schools are indefinitely shut down.
"We want our kids to overcome challenges. We want our kids to persevere. That's what we're trying to teach them. What a better way for us to teach them than for us to actually get out and create some new models and approaches that will help them," Burgum said.
This is coming on the heels of Bismarck and Mandan announcing just recently that they have already shut down schools for next week. While the governor announced Thursday he's taking it a step further and shutting all schools down in the state indefinitely at least for the time being. And the governor also mentioned that taxpayer money goes into shut downs as well. $96 million has already been spent just to shut down schools.
Schools have until June 30 to make up any lost time and meet the education time requirements. If schools are able to open before the end of the school year, some government officials alluded that some students may have classes well into June.
“This may be a tough assignment… kids are learning from us right now,” Burgum said.
On Sunday, Burgum issued an executive order to close schools for five days; allowing schools time to plan for a possible spike in cases in their area. Two days before then, Burgum said it would’ve been “inappropriate” to close schools based on CDC guidelines.
Burgum signed an executive order closing businesses with on-site dining as well as other large entertainment venues like movie theatres. That order is in place until April 6.
Throughout the week, Burgum said he would be leaving business hours up to the discretion of business owners and mayors; saying that small towns don’t need the Governor of North Dakota shutting down businesses. However, he did strongly recommend that businesses adjust hours and take up individual responsibility.
Businesses that don’t comply with the executive order may be penalized with an infraction and a fine of up to $1,000.
With businesses set to slow down operations, Burgum said he expects an increase in unemployment and is concerned over state unemployment trust funds. He said his office is looking for revenue options like block grants to sustain these funds during the pandemic.
State Facility Closures
State office buildings, including the Capitol Building, will also be shut down starting Monday. More than 3,100 employees will be moved for remote work.
“The health, safety and well-being of our citizens remains our top priority,” Burgum said. “With cases of community spread now confirmed in North Dakota, focusing on the health and well-being of Team ND members is crucial to ensuring continuity of government services for our citizens.”
Essential state staff will remain at work and the government will remain open.
Burgum noted that rest stops along highways may be ordered to close soon as well.