We are continuously creating Frequently Asked Questions for the 2021-2022 school year. Please check back frequently for updates.
Q. With the rise in Covid cases and the Delta variant, will there be a school mask mandate?
A. This year, the Legislature approved HB1323, which bars any statewide elected official or the state health officer from imposing a mask mandate. This bill is listed in the North Dakota Century Code (the state law books) as NDCC 23-07-12.1. North Dakota legislators have determined that local entities are best suited to consider CDC guidelines based on local conditions, including case rates, positivity rates, and available hospital capacity.
Q. If vaccinations/masks are not required, what precautionary measures are being taken to reduce the rate of COVID-19 transmission?
A. The 2021 North Dakota Legislature determined local entities are best suited to consider Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for managing COVID-19 based on local conditions, including case rates, positivity rates, and available hospital capacity. North Dakota’s statewide COVID-19 emergency, as declared by the governor, ended April 30, 2021.
Q: Are North Dakota teachers required to be vaccinated against COVID-19?
A: There is no statewide requirement that public school teachers be vaccinated.
Q: May schools segregate vaccinated students from those who are not vaccinated?
A: These issues will be decided by locally elected school boards, in consultation with public health authorities. Segregating children for any reason can cause legal problems, particularly with federal and state laws that protect the medical privacy and civil rights of children.
It is important here to note that North Dakota law (NDCC 23-07-17.1) allows a student’s parent or guardian to decline to have their child vaccinated if they have a “religious, philosophical, or moral belief” that is opposed to immunization.
However, if a student contracts a disease or sickness, the student would have to abide by the local school board’s infectious disease policy, which may exclude the student from school until the sickness has run its course.
Q: Does a school have the authority to mandate that students be vaccinated against COVID-19?
A: No. In any case, North Dakota law (NDCC 23-07-17.1) allows a student’s parent or guardian to decline to have their child vaccinated if they have a “religious, philosophical, or moral belief” that is opposed to immunization.
Under House Bill 1388, the North Dakota Legislature approved the ability for districts to legally create and operate virtual academies/schools. The following information provides clarity on how districts create and operate virtual academies/schools.
Q. May a district offer a hybrid learning model or a distance learning model for the 2021-2022 school year as was offered in the 2020-2021 school year?
A. No. Districts may not offer a hybrid learning model for the 2021-2022 school year. Students are to be enrolled in a physical plant, or virtual academy/school. Students may take certain classes between both options, but not a hybrid model.
Q. How are districts to conduct virtual learning for the 2021-2022 school year?
A. For districts to provide virtual learning for the 2021-2022 school year, they must create a virtual academy/school* to be approved by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (NDDPI). A district must have local school board approval for the creation of the school and submit signed school board minutes to the Office of School Approval & Opportunity. Minutes must include:
- Approval of the creation of the new academy/school;
- Name of the school; and
- Grade configuration of the school.
NDDPI also requires a grade configuration spreadsheet for cataloging purposes.
*Districts may provide distance/virtual learning in the case of inclement weather or other conditions if a board policy is in place. This type of distance learning option is only a short-term solution and is not intended to be used for full-time distance learning. For more information regarding this type of distance learning please contact Joe Kolosky at (701) 328-2755. In addition, you can find more information below on the Virtual Instruction - Weather or Other Conditions Accordion.
Virtual Academies/Schools and the Center for Distance Education
Q. May a district enroll a student in a physical plant school and allow that student to take online courses from the Center for Distance Education at home.
A. No. A district may not enroll a student in a physical plant, contract with the Center for Distance Education to provide instruction, and have that student stay at home to participate in that instruction.
Q. May a district create a virtual academy/school and contract through the Center for Distance Education to provide instruction for the students enrolled in that virtual academy/school?
A. Yes. Once the district has created the virtual academy/school, the district may contract with the Center for Distance Education to provide instruction. The district must implement an academic pacing guide for the purpose of measuring attendance. This pacing guide must be approved by the school board. It may be created by the district, Center for Distance Education, or a combination of both.
Logistics and Configuration
Q. What are the appropriate naming conventions for virtual academies/schools?
A. The names must include the word “virtual” within the naming convention, as well as the grade span. For example, Minot Public Schools K-5 Virtual School, Minot Public Schools K-5 Virtual Academy, Minot Public Schools K-8 Virtual Academy, or Minot Public Schools 9-12 Virtual Academy. Districts may use either “Academy” or “School.”
Q. What is the recommended grade configuration of virtual academies/schools?
A. A district can configure their virtual academies/schools any way they choose. However, it is recommended that districts configure by elementary, middle, and high school (i.e., K-5, K-6, K-8, 6-8, or 9-12).
Q. Why is it recommended that districts configure their virtual academies/schools in this manner?
A. For accountability purposes. Federal accountability guidelines delineate between virtual elementary and virtual high schools. Elementary is designated K-8 and high school is designated 9-12. Middle schools would follow elementary school accountability guidelines. If a virtual academy/school would configure their school to a 7-12 high school, this would be allowed, however those 7th and 8th graders test scores, student engagement survey results, and other data would appear under the elementary school for accountability purposes. It is more accurate to configure virtual academies/schools K-8 and 9-12.
Q. What reports are due regarding virtual academies/schools?
A. Important: A virtual academy/school must submit all required federal and school reports that a physical plant school submits.
Q. What is the deadline to submit school board minutes to NDDPI for approval of a virtual academy/school?
A. The original due date was July 30, 2021. However, the NDDPI may consider approving virtual schools on a case-by-case basis based on extenuating circumstances.
Q: Can a school virtually educate a student that is quarantined?
A: Yes, a student can receive virtual instruction for virtual learning, but when a student is in quarantine or isolating because they are sick, the school must follow the district’s infectious disease policy. The student must be removed from the school building and marked as “excused absence". If feeling well enough, the student can participate in instruction and learning. This instruction and learning can occur as it has in the past with paper homework and written teacher instruction, or it can occur as virtual instruction and learning. The student may not be temporarily enrolled in a virtual academy if the district has one. Virtual academies are not intended to be temporary placement.
Q. How is attendance conducted in a virtual academy/school?
A. The attendance of students participating in virtual instruction must be verified by monitoring the student's progress on academic pacing guides developed by the school district to ensure students are in attendance and receiving sufficient curricular instruction, as defined in rules adopted by the superintendent of public instruction (15.1-06-04. School calendar – Length).
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. Can students open enroll into a district to solely participate in that district’s virtual academy/school?
A. No. However, if both districts enter into a cost-sharing agreement, the student may attend the educating district virtual academy/school [15.1-31-07 (2.)].
School Board Policy
Q. Does a district have to create a policy to conduct virtual instruction through a virtual academy/school?
A. Yes. A school board policy must be in place before operating a virtual academy/school. Proposed Administrative Rules have been created regarding this as well:
67-30-02-03. Local Policy
Local policy regarding virtual schools must address:
- Procedures for transferring into or out of the virtual school.
- Procedures for engaging parents or legal guardians to assist in making the decision to enroll students in the virtual school.
- Attendance policies for the virtual school, in accordance with Section 5 of this chapter.
- Standards and curriculum for virtual instruction, in accordance with Section 6 of this chapter.
- Procedures for standards-based professional development specific to virtual learning and support for virtual school staff.
- Educational equity needs of all students enrolled in the virtual school.
- Cost-sharing agreements with other school districts.
- Procedures for child find and evaluation obligations under requirements of Public Law No. 94-142 [89 Stat. 773] and section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.
- Procedures for administering annual administered statewide summative assessments.
Districts must be approved to open a virtual school/academy by the superintendent of public instruction prior to opening a virtual school/academy. In addition, districts must have an approved board policy that outlines how the virtual academy/school will operate. This board policy will sunset on January 1, 2022, and a new policy must be created and enacted by January 1, 2022, which aligns with official administrative rules.
This guidance has been created in consideration of the legislative intent of HB 1388. You can find the updated Q & A on the NDDPI website under Virtual Education Authorized Under House Bill 1388 – FAQs.
The 67th Legislative Assembly recognized that distance learning is appropriate when the school building is not accessible. House Bill 1232 enables districts to conduct virtual learning 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
- Carbon monoxide
Q: What are the requirements to conduct virtual learning 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 instruction, and a school district may qualify for average daily membership in the district if the district is providing virtual instruction 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 (House Bill 1232, Section 2. School districts – Policy – Virtual learning, p. 2).
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.
For more information regarding virtual/distance learning, please contact Joe Kolosky at (701) 328-2755.