In accordance with the North Dakota K-12 Smart Restart (Fall 2020) and the Governor’s Executive Order released July 2020, all district distance education plans must meet the purpose of educating our K-12 students and safeguarding the health and safety of students, teachers, staff, families and the community at large. 

Equity is a critical consideration when designing learning structures. Districts must be intentional to understand the needs of and to provide supports/services to all students with special considerations for subgroups (i.e., students with disabilities, English learners, gifted, students experiencing homelessness, students experiencing sickness, disengaged students, etc.). Only distance education plans outlining a full continuation of services for all students will be considered as replacing instructional time.

Distance Learning Plan Expectations (updated July 14, 2020)

School districts shall assure in STARS that there is a school-board approved distance learning plan publicly available on the district website. Each plan must include the following:

I. Attendance Procedures

  • Detailed process for determining assurance and adherence to North Dakota K-12 Smart Restart expectations
  • Description of how the school district will ensure that all students have access to an educator
  • Detailed process for how districts will track participation and attendance for all students attending remotely, whether full time or intermittently

II. Educational Staff Expectations

School districts must include provisions outlining the roles and responsibilities for staff working remotely and providing student services. Plans must be clearly communicated and include implementable action steps. All plans should include the following:

  • Detailed job expectations regarding duties in a distance learning environment
  • Commitments on delivery of employee support services including, but not limited to, the following:
    • Human resources policies
    • Professional development opportunities
    • Regular communication and opportunities for input with district/school administration and colleagues

III. High-Quality, Effective, Standards-Based Education

  • Plans and examples of how the schools district will provide substantive distance learning such as a description of modes of instruction, methods of content delivery, and a process for monitoring learning, including, but not limited to, the following:
    • Student access to devices, if necessary
    • Student access to reliable, high-speed internet, if necessary
    • Student access to assistive technology and/or appropriate device(s) to meet needs, if necessary
    • Communication and support to all families, including those families whose native language is not English
    • Exposure to high-quality, standards-based skills and content
    • Academic progress monitoring
    • Provisions for instructional support (including assessment and evaluation of work)

IV. Ensuring Equitable Services

School districts must include provisions for addressing the unique needs of all grade levels, classes, and courses as well as address processes for ensuring both equity and access to high-quality, age-appropriate instruction at each level to ensure full continuity of the regular school experience. All plans should include the following:

  • Special Education Considerations - Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs) and 504s: All educational decisions for students with IEPs must be made on an individual basis and be consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the North Dakota Department of Instruction’s Office of Special Education guidelines. More information regarding Special Education can be found online.
    • Procedures for ensuring each student on an IEP or a 504 plan is continued while maintaining student and staff safety
  • English Learner Considerations
    • Process for the continued identification of English learners within 30 days of the first day of school or two weeks of enrollment during the school year
    • Process for appropriate scaffolding of instruction for English learners to ensure accessibility to content
    • Process for adapting the language instruction educational program (LIEP) for distance learning
  • Federal Title Considerations
    • Process for appropriate instruction to ensure accessibility to content, dependent on federal title designation
      • Schoolwide- this is addressed in the school’s overall plan as staff funded with Schoolwide funds can serve all students
      • Targeted- this needs to be specifically addressed in how Title I teachers will be providing instruction to identified Title I students
      • Private- districts will need to reach out to private schools and include in their plan how Title I teachers will provide instruction to identified students

V. School Counseling Services

Schools must continue to provide school counseling services, even if this is done electronically. Please see the linked guidance from the American School Counselor Association relating to virtual school counseling during an emergency shutdown. School counselors must still follow all ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors. School counselors should also work collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure equity, access and success of all students whether virtual school counseling is offered synchronously or asynchronously. Click on this link to access ASCA’s position statement on virtual school counseling.

  • Description of plans and examples of how the school district will provide social and emotional learning support to students, including counseling services

VI. Assessment and Grading Practices

  • Description of how the school district will require students to demonstrate ongoing understanding and growth toward academic proficiency in grade level or advanced grade level content
  • Description of the mechanisms in place for assessing students and assigning grades in continuation of your school district’s grading policies
  • Plans on how the school district will assess students within the first four weeks of the school year for all students, kindergarten through grade twelve


Distance Learning

Includes virtual, online, ITV, alternate locations, instructional telephone calls, and all learning that is offered through alternate means rather than on-campus, face to face. More specific subject-matter could be provided through content download (e.g., using laptops and smart phones) and communication by phone (e.g., conference calls and one-on-one calls). Depending on grade level, materials used might include books, textbooks, workbooks, worksheets, email, television (e.g., DVD, cable, streaming), and Internet content (e.g., websites, games).

Synchronous Online Learning

Instruction that occurs at the same time, but not at the same place (e.g., chat, streaming, video, instant messaging, web conferences).

Asynchronous Online Learning

Learning that occurs on the student’s schedule with capability for remote communication and assessment (e.g., email or learning management systems that deliver, track, and manage classes or projects).

Exposure to Content

Students can view content that broadly relates to content areas, such as literacy and numeracy. Focused skill development is not expected.

Supplemental Content

Students can view and participate in activities that are directly related to grade-level skills, but there is no capacity for assessment or evaluation of work. Limited progress is expected.

Partial Continuation

Students can access grade-level and subject-matter content. If instructional support (including assessment and evaluation of work) is provided through another medium, continued learning is possible. Measurable student progress is possible.

Full Continuation

Students can access grade-level and subject-matter content. Instructional support is provided, including assessment and evaluation of work. Measurable student progress is expected. Materials and instructional methods used might include all those listed above.


Executive Order 2020-38 allowed for the continuation of distance learning in North Dakota. The order also required the Department of Public Instruction to evaluate the implementation of distance learning occurring across the state to ensure continuity of education for all students.

The evaluation tool below was used to guide the review. Districts had the flexibility to document and demonstrate their implementation in ways that best met their needs. These strategies included desk audit submissions, virtual class observations, recorded sessions, and phone conversations.

The districts below submitted materials to their assigned reviewer by November 30, 2020. The results of these evaluations have been shared with each individual district and reported to the Governor. In total, fifteen districts were randomly selected to be reviewed for fidelity of implementation to their distance learning plans, which were used to inform the Executive Summary.

List of Districts/Assigned Reviewer:

Fargo 1 – Tara Fuhrer

Belcourt 7 – Davonne Eldredge

Killdeer 16 – Anne Linden

Thompson 61 – Judy Gries

Oakes 41 – Sara Mitzel

Richardton-Taylor 34 – Tara Fuhrer

Center-Stanton 1 – Davonne Eldredge

Glenburn 26 – Judy Gries

Beach 3 – Anne Linden

Drayton 19 – Sara Mitzel

Litchville-Marion 46 – Tara Fuhrer

McClusky 19 – Davonne Eldredge

Medina 3 – Anne Linden

Minto 20 – Judy Gries

Menoken 33 – Sara Mitzel