Virtual Education

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Virtual education cannot be structured and approved the way it was for the 2020-2021 school year. Authority to conduct virtual education in this manner ceased  when Governor Doug Burgum rescinded the COVID-19 Emergency in Executive Order 2021-09 on April 30, 2021. 

Moving past the 2020-2021 school year, the NDDPI has been working hard to formulate guidance for districts and schools looking to navigate virtual education going forward. Currently, there are two ways to implement virtual education: 

  1. Schools are granted authority in House Bill (HB) 1388 to create a virtual school; OR
  2. Schools are granted authority in HB 1232 to conduct school virtually in the event of weather or other emergencies.
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Virtual Education Authorized Under House Bill 1388 - FAQs

House Bill 1388 called for NDDPI to write Administrative Rules. The rules will outline requirements for schools wishing to open a virtual academy. NDDPI has created an Administrative Rules writing team to draft the initial copy which will be completed by July 31. NDDPI will send a copy of the first proposal to the field. Next steps include public comment, attorney general review, and legislative approval. The Legislative Administrative Rules Committee meets in December and, if all goes as planned, the rules will take effect January 1, 2022.

Q: What are the requirements to open a virtual academy under House Bill 1388?
A: In order to open a virtual academy (non-physical plant), the virtual academy must be approved by the Office of School Approval & Opportunity. This includes:

  • Approved school board minutes that outline the name of the new school(s) and grade configuration. For this fall semester (2021-2022), minutes are due by July 31. 

It is important to note that if districts intend to operate a virtual school, they will be opening a new non-physical plant. This means the virtual school will: 

  • Be assigned a new school in PowerSchool;
  • Be assigned a new school in STARS;
  • Be assigned new federal and state identification numbers;
  • Abide by yearly federal and state regulations;
  • Determine eligibility for Federal Title funding through their school district, ensuring to abide by all Federal Title processes and procedures;
  • Have the responsibility of all federal accountability measures including:
    • Conducting the Student Engagement survey;
    • Completing Choice Ready components;
    • Participating in all required assessments;
    • The possibility of being identified as Comprehensive or Targeted Support Schools; and
    • Graduation Rate.
  • Maintain and submit the same state and federal reports (excluding physical plant reports, such as fire marshal report, etc.);
  • Abide by the same civil rights requirements to meet the needs of English learners, students with disabilities, homeless, and foster care students; and
  • Enroll all virtual students in the virtual academy as their home school.

Additionally, school districts operating a virtual school must:

  • Take into consideration teacher workload and teacher contracts. (MISO2, MISO3 reports, and Teacher qualifications)
  • Abide by all Special Education requirements when conducting virtual academies;

Q: Is there any possibility that a student may be enrolled in a brick-and-mortar school as their home school, but still take virtual courses?
A. Yes. Schools will continue to use the policies in place for offsite learning away from their home school.

Q: Does a policy have to be created regarding virtual education?
A: Yes. The board of a school district or governing board of a nonpublic school that operates a physical school plant may adopt a policy to allow students to engage in virtual instruction and, in the case of a school district, qualify for average daily membership in the district. The superintendent of public instruction shall adopt rules governing policies under this section. A policy adopted by a school district under this section must comply with the rules adopted by the superintendent of public instruction. The superintendent of public instruction shall provide biennial reports to the legislative management regarding the academic performance metrics of students participating in virtual instruction under this section.

Q: Can a district operate a virtual school before official administrative rules have been created?
A: Yes. Districts must be approved by the superintendent of public instruction prior to opening a virtual academy. In addition, districts must a have an approved board policy that outlines how virtual academies operate. This board policy will sunset on January 1, 2022, and a new policy must be created and enacted by January 1, 2022 that align with official administrative rules.

Q: Will there be more guidance regarding virtual schools?
A: Yes. Currently, an administrative rules committee has been established and the proposed initial draft will be completed by July 31.

Virtual Schools Authorized Under House Bill 1232: Weather or Other Emergency Condition - FAQs

The 67th Legislative Assembly recognized that virtual education is appropriate when a school building is not accessible due to weather or any other temporary emergency. House Bill 1232 enables districts to conduct virtual education in the case a school is closed due to weather or other conditions.

Q. What are some historical scenarios where this could have been applied?
A. Specific scenarios include but may not be limited to:

  • Flood – Grand Forks Flood, spring 1997; Minot, Souris River Flood, June 2011.
  • Tornado – Northwood Tornado, Aug. 26, 2007.
  • Blizzard – Statewide blizzard, Jan. 17-18, 1996; March 2-5, 1996.
  • Water pipe break
  • Boiler-heating system failure
  • Mold
  • Carbon monoxide
  • Radon
  • Fire
  • Pandemic

Q: What are the requirements to conduct virtual education under HB 1232 (weather or other condition)?
A: The board of a school district or governing board of a nonpublic school that operates a physical school plant may adopt a policy to allow students to engage in virtual education, and a school district may qualify for average daily membership in the district if the district is providing virtual education in satisfaction of the requirements of subsection 3 of section 15.1-06-04. The superintendent of public instruction shall adopt rules governing policies under this section. A policy adopted by a school district under this section must comply with the rules adopted by the superintendent of public instruction.

Q. Is approval needed through NDDPI to use this flexibility?
A. No. Districts must only create a school board approved policy if they are to conduct virtual learning because of weather or other condition for the 2021-2022 school year.

Q: Will there be more guidance regarding virtual learning because of weather or other conditions?
A: Yes. Currently, an administrative rules committee has been established and the proposed initial draft will be completed by July 31.

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For more information regarding virtual education, please contact Joe Kolosky in the Office of School Approval & Opportunity at (701) 328-2755.

For more information on the administrative rules process, please contact Jim Upgren in the Office of School Approval & Opportunity at (701) 328-2244.