Frequently Asked Questions

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The 2020-2021 K-12 Smart Restart Guidance was released July 14, 2020. We are currently creating a FAQ regarding this announcement and the guidance. Please check back frequently for updates regarding this information.

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Assessment

Q: Is there a waiver that would exempt a district, school, or student from the plan to assess K-12 students within the first four weeks of the 2020-2021 school year?

A: No, there is not an exemption to the plan for assessing students within the first four weeks of school. 

Q: Is there a process by which an extension may be granted to assess students beyond the previously mentioned four-week timeline from when school starts?

A: No. Extensions are not allowed.

Q: May a district or school utilize an interim assessment, or a vendor who provides an interim assessment in their plan, to assess students within the first four weeks of the 2020-2021 school year?

A: Yes. As is mentioned in the guidance found on the NDDPI COVID-19 Assessment Guidance webpage, using an existing relationship with a vendor to administer an assessment -- or using an existing assessment as part of an assessment plan -- is acceptable. The goal of the assessment is to identify where students are academically, and to help in providing targeted instruction.

Q: Does anyone know of an assessment that is normed for 12th grade, or for the end of the 11th grade?

A: Yes. Please view the NDDPI COVID-19 Assessment Guidance webpage. For a list of assessments normed for these grade ranges, check out COVID-19: Diagnostic Assessment

Behavioral Health Services

Q: How will schools provide behavioral health services to students?

A: Schools are required to continue to provide counseling services, either remotely or otherwise. Distance learning plans must describe how the school district will provide social and emotional learning support to students and staff.

Distance Learning

Q: Is a school required to provide learning for students who need to stay home for either isolation or quarantine?

A: Yes. “Schools should have systems in place to support continuity or learning for students who need to stay home for either isolation or quarantine. This includes access to online learning, school meals, and other services. The same holds for students with additional needs, including children with a disability, that makes it difficult to adhere to mitigation strategies.” (CDC guidelines: Preparing K-12 School Administrators for a Safe Return to School in Fall 2020).

Q: Are schools required to offer distance learning to families who request that option for their students?

A: Yes. Students and their families also are not required to provide a doctor’s note or any kind of documentation to show that they need this option. The request is enough.

Q: Since distance learning is required, will teachers get a pay raise for having to do both in person and distant computer teaching? Or will they have additional/added time worked into their daily schedule that allows them to prep and put courses online?

A: Local school districts will make these decisions, based on the terms of their teachers’ contracts and district human resources policies.

Q: Are schools required to provide distance learning to their students on request?

A: During the current public health situation, and through Executive Orders issued by Gov. Burgum, school district buildings were closed, and schools were eventually required to provide their full curriculum to students through distance learning for the remainder of the 2019-20 school year. (Executive Orders 2020-04 and 2020-10.) The schools bore the costs of that distance learning requirement. Before that, public school districts provided education to students who are enrolled in their schools (North Dakota Century Code 15.1-06). Under current law, school districts “shall make available” the course subjects, and number of credit hours, for student education as required by law. (NDCC 15.1-21-02(1)).  The current law says school districts “may” meet those education requirements through “distance learning options.” (NDCC 15.1-21-02(4)(c).) If a school district incorporates distance learning as a part of its curriculum, the school districts “shall . . . pay all costs of the student’s attendance” in those options. (NDCC 15.1-21-02(6)(a).)

Q: Are families required to pay for distance learning for their children?

A: For the 2020-21 school year, as detailed in Executive Order 2020-38, school districts must have a Distance Learning Plan filed with the Department of Public Instruction. The Distance Learning Plans include a requirement that school districts must offer distance learning options to their students whose families decide to continue distance learning. To the extent it does so, and as the law has long required, the school district is responsible for the costs of those distance learning offerings. Notably, Executive Order 2020-38 indicates that a school district “may consider distance learning students as enrolled for the purposes of calculating average daily membership for foundation aid payments pursuant to” NDCC 15.1-27. If schools offer their enrolled students distance learning curriculum that is provided by the North Dakota Center for Distance Education [“CDE”], under NDCC 15-19, school districts contract with CDE to meet their payment obligations.

Q: What is the difference between home education, otherwise known as home schooling, and distance learning, sometimes referred to as learning from home?

A: Children of parents who elect to provide their children with “home education” are not enrolled in public schools. (NDCC 15.1-23-01) Instead, parents of home-educated students are required to supervise the education of their children, and that supervision obligates the parents to be responsible for identifying, providing, and bearing the costs associated with their child’s home education. (NDCC 15.1-23) Public school districts are not responsible for the costs associated with home education -- costs that may be associated with time spent by the parent, resources and materials, educational curriculum, distance learning options, or other resources a parent of a home-educated student might elect to offer their child.

Q: Where do I go to read the North Dakota K-12 Smart Restart document for Fall 2020?

A: North Dakota K-12 Smart Restart document

Q: How do the new North Dakota K-12 Smart Restart guidelines affect school district distance learning plans?

A: In accordance with the North Dakota K-12 Smart Restart (Fall 2020) and the Governor’s executive order, released in July 2020, all district distance education plans must be updated, improvements made, and required elements added. School board approval is required, and plans must be posted on the school district’s website. 

Schools must outline how they keep track of all students’ attendance and participation, and make sure they have regular access to teachers. Distance learning plans should show how schools intend to provide quality distance education, including descriptions of instructional methods, content delivery, and procedures for monitoring student learning. This will include making sure students have access to reliable, high-speed broadband service, and devices to connect to them, if those resources are needed.

Additional information on the distance learning plan requirements can be found at online.

Q: What are the expectations of school staff in providing distance learning?

A: School board-approved distance learning plans must outline the responsibilities of staff who are working remotely and providing services to students. Detailed job expectations must be clearly described. There must be a commitment to supporting employees, including professional development opportunities, regular communication with district and school administrators and colleagues, and access to human resources policies and advice.

Q: How will students’ academic progress be monitored?

A: School districts will be required to assess all of their students, grades kindergarten through 12, within the first four weeks of school. School board-approved distance learning plans must include descriptions of how each school district will have its students demonstrate ongoing understanding and growth toward academic proficiency. There must be a description of how students are to be assessed and graded, according to the district’s grading policies.

Q: Is there an outside approval process for modified distance learning plans?

A: These plans must be reviewed and voted upon by a district’s school board. Districts must attest in the State Automated Reporting System (STARS) -- which is used to report education data -- that they have a distance learning plan that meets all requirements, has been approved by the school board, and is directly linked on the district’s website.

Q: Does a district’s distance learning plan have to be approved by the governor or the superintendent of public instruction?

A: No. It must meet all requirements of the North Dakota K-12 Smart Restart Guidance and be approved by the local school board, posted on the district’s website, and filed with the Department of Public Instruction. It does not need the approval of the governor’s office or NDDPI.

Q: During distance learning this past spring, teachers had their own formats for providing distance education. It was confusing to families. Is there a way to have one online education format?

A: Gov. Burgum and Superintendent Baesler are working together with the North Dakota Information Technology Department and the state Center for Distance Education to provide a uniform delivery system for instruction in English/Language Arts and mathematics. Lessons will be tailored to the skills of each student. They can be used as a supplement to in-person instruction, or serve as personalized instruction if distance learning becomes necessary.

Health and Safety Plans

Q: Who determines the color of our state?

A: The Governor in consultation with the North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) will make the determination if and when the state or a specific county may change colors.

Q: How do I know the color of my county?

A: Currently, the entire state is in the GREEN – Low Risk Level. North Dakota’s K12 Smart Restart will follow what is identified at the state level. If the state adjusts from a statewide color to a county color, communication will occur among the NDDoH, NDDPI, and the Governor’s Office and Local Public Health will be informed. The NDDoH in coordination with Local Public Health will provide updated information to school districts if this occurs.

Q: Can I choose the color for my school district?

A: No. The color is determined by the Governor in consultation with the NDDoH.

Q: May our district choose to implement more stringent health and safety protocols?

A: Absolutely. School districts may choose to implement specific mitigation protocols that are more stringent than what is included in the current color risk level.

Q: How do we handle a positive test result?

A: Every school district must follow the protocol provided by the NDDoH in response to a positive test result with a staff or student. Click here to learn more.

Q: How do we handle a close contact?

A: Every school district must follow the protocol provided by the NDDoH in response to a close contact. Click here to learn more.

Q: Why are masks not being required, despite frequent daily posts from the health department emphasizing their importance?

A: School health and safety plans are required to detail guidelines on mask use.

Q: How will families and the community be aware of the health and safety precautions that schools will be taking?

A: Districts are required to create health and safety plans, in consultation with local health units. These plans must be reviewed and voted upon by the local school board, and published on the district’s website. Instructions for creating a local health and safety plan are included in the North Dakota K-12 Smart Restart document.

Q: What are school health and safety plans, and what information must they have?

A: The North Dakota K-12 Smart Restart document outlines the details of what a school health and safety plan must include.

Among them:

  • Identify a “COVID-19 team” and/or “coordinator” to oversee health and safety preparedness and response planning.
  • Identify a person who must be informed of positive COVID-19 tests in the school setting. This person is responsible for notifying public health officials and the state school superintendent of COVID-19 cases inside a school setting.
  • Outline a process for isolation and quarantine when a staff member, student, or visitor becomes sick or demonstrates a history of exposure, and a process for determining when that person may return to school.
  • Emphasize communication and training about the health and safety plan, including information about hygiene practices (e.g., hand washing, use of face masks, and protocols for cleaning, sanitizing and ventilating learning spaces, surfaces, and areas used by students, such as hallways, drinking fountains, restrooms and school buses). 
  • Develop a process to rapidly notify families and staff of exposures in school settings.

Q: I don’t want to send my child back to school. What are my options?

A:  Please consult with your local school district. Each school district must have a process to identify and protect children and staff at higher risk with an opportunity for distance teaching and learning. 

Q: The ND K-12 Smart Restart guidance refers to keeping distancing to the maximum extent possible. What does that mean?

A: The recommendation is to keep a 6-foot distance when possible. All schools must consult their assigned public health unit when they create their health and safety plans. Social distancing practice is a component that should be discussed with the public health unit and approved by the local school board.

Q: The governor’s previous executive order, as it affected schools, had a limit of 15 people to a room, no matter the size of the room.  Is that still in effect?

A: No. The 15-person-per-room limit is being lifted for the 2020-21 school year. It remains in place for summer school in 2020.

Q: The ND K-12 Smart Restart document has five color phases that describe reopening risk – red, orange, yellow, green and blue, with red the riskiest and blue the least risky. Who determines each district’s risk level?

A: The North Dakota Department of Health will inform local public health units about state and/or county risk levels.

Q: Gov. Burgum said school districts would be assigned a local public health unit to work with on health issues and to develop health and safety plans. Where do I find this information?

A: We will post that information as we receive it from the North Dakota Department of Health. North Dakota has a decentralized public health system, with 28 independent units that work with the state health department. Some units serve a single county, while others serve more than one county. (North Dakota has 53 counties.) 

Q: I believe we’re asking too much of our school boards to write plans for health and safety and distance learning.

A: Under the North Dakota K-12 Smart Restart guidance, school boards approve health and safety and distance learning plans. Writing these plans is the responsibility of school administrators, working with local public health, families, teachers, staff, students, and communities. These plans will be reviewed and approved by local school boards. Board members will not be writing these plans.

Q: Does a district’s health and safety plan have to be approved by the governor or the superintendent of public instruction?

A: No. It must be approved by the local school board, posted on the district’s website, and filed with the Department of Public Instruction, but it does not need approval by NDDPI or the governor’s office.

Q: I am a school district teacher/staff member and I do not feel safe returning to school. What are my options?

A: Consult with your school district about school district policy (for employees) and the terms of your teaching contract (for teachers).

Q: Must I come to work at school if I live with someone who is vulnerable to COVID-19 because of health conditions?

A: In these cases, you should consult your school district administration.

Legal and Liability Matters

Q. Are there special considerations for executing 960s during the COVID-19 pandemic? What is the school district’s liability if it does not report educational neglect?

A. Districts need to seek their own legal guidance on this issue. Educational neglect is the failure to make arrangements for, and/or provide for, a child's education, whether it is in a public school, a private school, or home education. Educators are among those who are required by state law to report suspected child abuse or neglect. They are “mandatory reporters.” The Department of Human Services has a form, SFN960, that is used to report cases of suspected child abuse or neglect.

The Department of Public Instruction cannot offer guidance on legal issues. It has no authority to do so. School districts may contact the North Dakota School Boards Association (NDSBA) for additional legal information and resources relating to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Districts are also encouraged to consult with their district legal counsel for direct legal assistance. The North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund can offer risk management advice. North Dakota United also offers legal services to its members, including public employees and educators in North Dakota.

Below is a sampling of questions the Department of Public Instruction has received but does not have the authority to respond to (a good resource for answers to these questions can be found here):

  • What are the FERPA and HIPAA implications and requirements for districts that are sharing student “personally identifiable information” with the North Dakota Department of Health or other appropriate parties?

  • What information can districts share with public health authorities?

  • What information may districts share about a student’s or employee’s positive COVID-19 test to the district community?

  • If a district employee wants to continue working remotely, and not on-site, are districts required to accommodate that request?

  • Can districts require an employee to return to work on-site, if we have put a health and safety plan in place?

  • If an employee claims a health condition as a reason to work remotely, are we required to accommodate that request? Does an accommodation request to work from home need to qualify for ADA?

  • Can districts request proof of an employee’s health condition, or a physician letter?

  • Can districts require employees, students, and/or visitors to wear face coverings?

  • Can districts require employees, students, and/or visitors to be screened for COVID-19?

  • Can we require employees, students, and/or visitors to be tested for COVID if they have symptoms?  Can we require testing on a routine surveillance basis, even if asymptomatic?

School Reopening

Q: Why are there no minimum guidelines set for schools? For instance, if a district or county sees an increased infection rate of a certain percentage, that means schools go to socially distanced classrooms or distance learning. I’m not sure why the Department of Public Instruction and the state couldn’t provide districts across the state with at least some baseline standards.

A: The North Dakota K-12 Smart Restart Fall 2020 document provides guidance and expectations for school districts as they update their distance learning and create new health and safety plans.

Q: Why not delay school for some amount of time that trends go back down and give that time to teachers to adequately prepare and fully vet program options for students, instead of the couple of weeks they had last spring to slap something together to meet requirements?

A: School boards can reconfigure their school calendars if they want to delay the start of school for this reason. North Dakota law gives school boards wide latitude in deciding when the school year begins and ends. Schools must meet five days a week, unless they have successfully applied to the NDDPI to meet only four days a week. They also must provide at least 962 ½ hours of instruction to students in grades kindergarten through 8 and 1,050 hours of instruction from grades 9 through 12. (See North Dakota Century Code 15.1-06-04.) Also, teachers have had a number of weeks to prepare and vet program options for students.

Q: Instead of kids changing classrooms to go to different classes, wouldn’t it be safer to have teachers change classrooms? Less traffic in the halls, fewer desks to sanitize?

A: Schools may use this option, and some are considering it.

Q: How will you handle children who are deaf or hard of hearing if teachers and administrators are wearing masks?

A: Clear masks and shields are available for these situations. Schools may consult the North Dakota School for the Deaf/Resource Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, which has expertise in this subject.

Q: How will the afterschool programs at the schools operate, such as Encore in Grand Forks?

A: Local school districts will make these decisions, using guidance from the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction, the state Department of Human Services, and local public health authorities.

Q: Can we get a copy of the syllabus for the grade my daughter is going into? We want to find a homeschool program that will keep her at the same level. Therefore, when we are comfortable with her returning to the public school, she will be at the same level as her friends.

A: Your daughter’s school should be able to provide a copy of the information you need.

Q: What is the process for reopening schools?

A: School board members, in consultation with administrators, families, students, teachers and public health, will make the decisions on school reopening procedures. Classroom instruction may be in person, done by distance learning, or carried out using a combination of the two. Communities are free to explore different options. Local officials are most familiar with the conditions in their communities.

Q: How will this be different from when the pandemic began in the spring of 2020?

A: Given the state’s current conditions, no statewide school shutdown is planned. Students will not be prohibited statewide from taking in-person instruction in school buildings.

Q: Does this North Dakota K-12 Smart Restart document rely on local communities, school boards, students, families, administrators, and teachers to make decisions about how to go ahead with school?

A: School districts should contact their local public health units for the most recent information about the “color phase” of their community (red, orange, yellow, green, or blue). The North Dakota Department of Health will be keeping local public health units up to date on this information.

Q: Is it possible for a school district to begin its 2020-21 academic year two weeks later than originally planned?

A: Yes. School boards may change their school calendars. North Dakota law requires 962.5 hours of instruction each academic year for grades K-6, and at least 1,050 hours for grades 7-12, any time between July 1 and June 30. The calendar length of a school year may be tailored accordingly.

Q: How does this revised North Dakota K-12 Smart Restart document affect nonpublic schools or Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools?

A: They are strongly encouraged to create a health and safety plan that suits their needs, and to publish it on their individual websites before reopening.

Special Education

Q: North Dakota is requiring that all schools offer a distance learning option for families. Local school boards, working with their local health authorities, may offer additional options.  Are these the same as IDEA educational placements on the least restrictive environment (LRE) continuum of alternative placements? For example, is distance learning considered a homebound placement for a student with an IEP? 

A: Alternatives to traditional classroom instruction offered by a school district to all students, such as distance learning and hybrid learning, should be considered options for accessing the general education curriculum, rather than educational placements on the LRE continuum.  Just because the school district offers distance learning doesn’t mean the LRE educational environment changes.  When a school district offers all students access to the general education curriculum through distance learning, the school is not proposing to change the educational placement of a student with a disability or to remove the student from the regular education environment or the placement specified in the student’s IEP. Distance learning is simply an option that the school district offers to all students for accessing the general education curriculum.  Distance learning refers to distance instruction provided in the student’s home due to unusual circumstances that are not related to the individual student.  Homebound learning is a method of instruction chosen by the IEP team based on the student’s needs. 

Q: What special education and related services must be provided to students with disabilities when a school district is serving its students through distance learning? 

A: When a school is serving its students through distance learning, the school must ensure that each student with a disability also has equal access to the same opportunities as students without disabilities. School districts must provide a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) consistent with the need to protect the health and safety of students with disabilities, and to individuals providing education, specialized instruction, and related services to these students. Circumstances may affect how all educational and related services and supports are provided.  An amendment to the IEP may be necessary to ensure FAPE when distance learning is taking place.  This guidance is consistent with, and based upon, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) Supplemental Fact Sheet Addressing the Risk of COVID-19 in Preschool, Elementary and Secondary Schools While Serving Children with Disabilities, issued on March 21, 2020.  

The student’s IEP team should start by thinking about the district’s general education curriculum as it is offered through different learning environments (e.g., hybrid learning or distance learning). All services are intended to support the student in accessing the general education curriculum to the maximum extent that is appropriate.  

The student’s IEP team should think about the definition of specially designed instruction within the context of the student’s learning environment. "Specially designed instruction" means adapting, as appropriate to the needs of each student with a disability, the content, methodology or delivery of instruction for the following purposes: 

(1) To address the unique needs of the student that result from the student’s disability; and 

(2) to ensure access of any student with a disability to the general education curriculum (in this instance, the general education curriculum available to all students within a given learning environment).  

The student’s IEP team should think about related services in the context of what specially designed instruction means within the district’s learning environment options. Related services are developmental, corrective, and supportive services required to assist a student with a disability to benefit from special education services. 

The student’s IEP team should think about supplementary aids and services, program modifications, and supports for school personnel to “enable children with disabilities to be educated with children without disabilities to the maximum extent appropriate.” 34 C.F.R. § 300.42 

Q: As schools offer multiple options for accessing the general education curriculum, who decides which option a student with a disability will participate in: the student’s IEP team, school administrators, or the parent? 

A:  The parent will decide which option the student will participate. If an IEP team or a school administrator requires a student with a disability to participate in one particular option, but offers students without disabilities the opportunity to choose among several options, that could be perceived as disparate treatment and discrimination. 

Q: How should a school handle a situation where the parent wants the student with a disability to participate in a distance learning or hybrid learning option offered by the school district for the 2020-21 school year, but members of the IEP team believe the student could, or should, attend school onsite instead? 

A: If a parent requests their child participate in a learning option other than the traditional in-school model that the district is offering to all students for the 2020-21 school year, the student meets the non-discriminatory admissions criteria that applies to all students. If the other members of the student’s IEP team believe that the parent’s choice will not provide FAPE, then the offer of FAPE should be kept intact in the student’s IEP. However, the IEP team should also create a temporary plan for services and supports needed for the student to participate in the alternative option chosen by the parent. The IEP team should clearly document any decisions made with the parent.    

Q: If a parent and the other members of the IEP team agree that a student with a disability could or should participate in a distance or hybrid learning option offered by the school district, how should the IEP team document that decision? 

A: In this instance, the IEP team should determine whether any changes are needed to the services and supports in the IEP in order for the student to participate in the chosen option. These changes should be stated in the IEP. This can be accomplished by convening an IEP team meeting, or by the parent and school agreeing to amend the IEP without a meeting. 

Q: When a school district offers distance learning or hybrid learning, can the parent ask for special education services beyond the regularly scheduled onsite learning?   

A: First, school and regional safety and health plans need to be considered.  If there are not safety or health considerations preventing a student with a disability receiving selected onsite services, the IEP team, working with school administration, may determine if this is an allowable option in order to provide FAPE.   

Q: When a school district requires all students to participate in distance learning and does not offer onsite or hybrid learning, may a parent or IEP team request onsite special education services?  

A: First, school and regional safety and health plans need to be considered.  If there are not safety or health considerations preventing a student with a disability receiving selected onsite services, the IEP team, working with school administration, may determine if this is an allowable option in order to provide FAPE.   

Q: If a parent of a student with a disability chooses a distance learning option offered by the district, and the IEP team determines that some of the IEP services can only be provided onsite, must the district provide transportation to and from the student’s home and school for those onsite services? 

A: In a situation where a parent selects a distance learning option, but the IEP team determines that a specific special education or related service can only be provided in a district building, the IEP team must also determine whether the student requires transportation in order to benefit from that onsite service. There is no requirement that the need for transportation be related to the student’s disability. For example, a student with an intellectual disability who is fully mobile may still need transportation as a related service, if without it, the student would not be able to come to the school building to receive the special education services that the IEP team determined would only be provided onsite. IEP teams may consider the parent’s ability to transport the student, the student’s ability to safely walk to school, the availability of public transportation, and the student’s age, among other factors.  

Q: If a student with an IEP is participating in distance learning or hybrid learning, and is not making appropriate progress in the general education curriculum or toward meeting his/her IEP goals, what should the school do? 

A: In any instance when a student is not making appropriate progress, the IEP team would need to meet and discuss what changes can be made to the services and supports to address the lack of progress. This can be accomplished by convening an IEP team meeting, or by the parent and school agreeing to amend the IEP without a meeting. 

Q: If a school district chooses to alter the length of the traditional school day/week through a hybrid model, what considerations for students with disabilities should the school district keep in mind? 

A: The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs issued guidance on March 21 that stated, “If an LEA closes its schools to slow or stop the spread of COVID-19, and does not provide any educational services to the general student population, then an LEA would not be required to provide services to students with disabilities during that same period of time.” Therefore, if a school district is opting for a hybrid model when the length of the traditional school day has been altered, the IEP team needs to take into consideration the amount of learning minutes all students are receiving in a week.  The IEP team needs to proportionately calculate the percentage of instruction in comparison to the general education population when determining the student’s LRE educational environmental code of special education and related service minutes.  Example of how to calculate LRE: 

 

Pre COVID 

COVID LRE Example #1 

COVID LRE Example #2  * 

All student learning hours 

30 hours per week 

25 hours per week 

25 hours per week 

SDI-Reading Intervention 

6 hours per week 

5 hours per week 

6 hours per week 

LRE Percentage 

80% 

80% 

76% 

*If the amount of special education services remains the same, but the overall number of general education instructional minutes has decreased, this could change the environmental code to a more restrictive environment for a student with disabilities.  The IEP team needs to consider whether this is appropriate for the student in order to receive FAPE. 

Q: Can a school district decide not to provide any special education and related services to all students with IEPs during the first week of the 2020-21 school year. so that students can spend more time learning about social/emotional competencies, general expectations, and procedures? 

A: Each student’s IEP must be individualized and created by that student’s IEP team to meet that student’s unique needs. It would be inconsistent with the law for an IEP to be written to begin on the second or third week of school because of administrative convenience or scheduling. Some students will need services starting on the first day of school and others may not, but that decision must be made by each individual IEP team based on what an individual student’s needs.  

Q: Are students with disabilities required to wear masks in districts/school buildings where mask wearing is mandated?  

A: Mask wearing is a local school district decision.  If a disagreement about mask wearing occurs, IEP teams, administrators and parents are encouraged to communicate and seek appropriate options based on health and safety conditions.  If a student is unable to wear traditional masks, please see NDDPI’s website on Altered Facemask Guidance for additional options. 

Sports

Q: What is to be done about fall sports?

A: Schools should use the North Dakota High School Activities Association’s guidance to make decisions about school athletic events and other extracurricular activities and competitions.

Tribal Consultations

Q: Do all school districts have to consult with tribal leaders about distance learning and health and safety plans?

A: The federal Every Student Succeeds Act requires affected local education agencies to consult with Indian tribes, or tribal-approved organizations in the LEA’s area. This requirement affects districts that have more than 50 percent enrollment of American Indian or Alaska Native students, and/or a Title VI or Title VII education grant of more than $40,000. We encourage districts to do this during their LEA local tribal consultation, which is required by Section 8535 of the Every Student Succeeds Act, Public Law 114-95.

What To Do About Positive Tests

Q: How does a school district handle a close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19?

A: School districts must follow the state Department of Health’s protocol in response to a close contact incident.

Q: Will there be expedited testing available for school personnel? It is taking five or six days to get results for some tests.

A: That question would best be directed to your school’s local public health unit. Here is a list of health units and their contact information.

Q: If a teacher tests positive for COVID-19 are they required to quarantine for 14 days? Will they have paid sick leave for that time off?

A. Detail such as this will be outlined in the district health and safety plan. The plan requires the district to include the North Dakota Department of Health protocols for:

  • Process for isolation and quarantine when a staff, member, student or visitor becomes sick or demonstrates a history of exposure.
  • Guidelines for when an isolated or quarantined staff member, staff, or visitor may return to school.

Sick leave processes are locally determined by individual districts and school boards.  

Q: If a teacher tests positive for COVID-19, and has five classes a day with 30 students each, do all of those students need to quarantine for 14 days? Must they be tested? Who pays for the tests? How are parents being notified?

A. Detail such as this will be outlined in the district health and safety plan. The plan requires the district to include the Department of Health protocols for:

  • Process for isolation and quarantine when a staff, member, student or visitor becomes sick or demonstrates a history of exposure.
  • Guidelines for when an isolated or quarantined staff member, staff, or visitor may return to school.

Sick leave processes are locally determined by individual districts and school boards. 

The school district’s COVID-19 coordinator and/or team will assist public health in identifying and notifying close contacts in the school setting. The North Dakota Department of Health has procedures for notifying close  contacts.

Q: What if someone who lives in a teacher’s home tests positive for COVID-19? Will that teacher be required to quarantine for 14 days? Will the teacher get paid sick leave for that time off?

The North Dakota Department of Health conducts interviews with all persons diagnosed with COVID-19 to determine who their close contacts are. People who are identified as close contacts will be notified by the North Dakota Health Department and will receive instruction on quarantine and monitoring. The fact sheet on being a close contact can be found online.

Sick leave processes are locally determined by individual districts and school boards. 

Q: What if your child, or a student in your child’s class, tests positive for COVID-19? Does every other student and teacher they have been around have to go into quarantine for 14 days?

The North Dakota Department of Health interviews with all persons diagnosed with COVID-19 to determine who their close contacts are. People who are identified as close contacts will be notified by the North Dakota Health Department and will receive instruction on quarantine and monitoring. The fact sheet on being a close contact can be found online.

Q: Who is notified if someone in my child’s school tests positive? To what extent is notification going to be affected by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) rules?

The North Dakota Department of Health conducts interviews with all persons diagnosed with COVID-19 to determine who their close contacts are. People who are identified as close contacts will be notified by the North Dakota Health Department and will receive instruction on quarantine and monitoring. The fact sheet on being a close contact can be found online.

The North Dakota K-12 Smart Restart document requires school districts to include in their health and safety plans a process to rapidly notify parents and staff of COVID-19 exposures in the school setting.

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If you have questions, please contact Joe Kolosky with NDDPI at (701) 328-2755.