COVID-19 School Guidance

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At this moment, utilizing virtual or online learning in lieu of traditional education methods, is not allowed within North Dakota Century Code. The Governor’s Office is currently researching the possibility to allow this as an option for schools. Until then, schools are not allowed to provide education to their students through an exclusively virtual or online setting. If the status of this changes, NDDPI will update and provide guidance accordingly.

School Closure Process Toolkit - Updated March 30
Guidance for school and district leaders to develop short-term and long-term plans during COVID-19 school closures.

Health officials are currently taking steps to prevent the introduction and spread of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) into communities across the United States. Schools will undoubtedly play an important role in this effort. Through collaboration and coordination with local health departments, schools can take steps to disseminate information about the disease and its potential transmission within their school community. Schools can prepare to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among their students and staff. The NDDPI has provided the following information to help answer any questions that may arise.  

School Closure Q&A

On March 15, Gov. Doug Burgum and State Supt. Kirsten Baesler had a conference call with all superintendents. There was a 45-minute Q&A session that can be referenced online.

If you have additional questions, please email Kirsten Baesler.

Making Up School Hours

North Dakota Century Code (NDCC) 15.1-06-04. School calendar – Length, indicates that a school district shall provide for a school calendar that includes: At least 962.5 hours of instruction for elementary school students and 1,050 hours of instruction for middle and high school students.

If a school must close for an extended period because of a quarantine and should fall below the minimum hours, the following options are available:

  • Making up the hours on planned Professional Development (PD) days, if the mandatory three PD days are already met;
  • Making up school time on Saturdays;
  • Extending the school day; or
  • Extending the school year.

Student Attendance

Many districts, parents, and guardians have expressed worry about student absences related to COVID-19 safety concerns. Many parents in North Dakota have begun to consider keeping their children home to protect their children from contracting COVID-19. Questions have arisen regarding if a parent can keep their child home for an extended period, and if there will be a consequence if they do. In these cases, parents have the ultimate decision-making authority regarding their children. School board members and administrators are encouraged to look at their current attendance and contagious disease policies and make the most logical and practical decision. NDDPI asks that districts keep student safety and well-being at the forefront when making any decision that impacts student learning. Districts should also review any student attendance incentive practice or procedure they have in place which might encourage a student to come to school when they are ill.

Assessment/Accountability/Reporting

The USED has provided information to state education agencies that there may be flexibility for assessments and accountability as a result of COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis. Should the need arise, NDDPI will work with districts on adjustments related to state assessments scheduled this spring.

  • Waiver
    • To comment on the waiver, please submit your written feedback.

Notifications

If districts experience school closures, it is NDDPI’s expectation that they follow their standard procedure for notifying parents and guardians. This includes, but is not limited to, calls, emails, updates to their district websites, text messages, and contacting local news stations. If parents and families do not hear from their districts regarding a closure, they should contact their school principal or district superintendent.

State Aid Reimbursement

In the event of an emergency and a school falls below the minimum number of hours required by law, schools can submit a waiver for state aid reimbursement payments.

NDCC 15.1-27-23. Weather or other emergency conditions - Closure of schools - State aid payments to school districts, reads:

  1. The board of each school district shall establish the length of a period, day, and week in accordance with the requirements of section 15.1-06-04. If a public school or school district is closed or provides less than a full day of instruction, the public school or school district shall reschedule those hours to ensure students receive at least the minimum number of instructional hours required by subdivision a of subsection 1 of section 15.1-06-04.
  2. Any public school or school district for which the rescheduling of classes would create undue hardship may request that, for purposes of calculating state aid payments to the school district, the governor waive the rescheduling in whole or in part.

FERPA Guidelines

North Dakota K-12 schools have developed amazingly creative plans to educate our state’s students during the COVID-19 situation. These plans include innovative ideas and technology tools to support students, parents, and teachers in staying connected and delivering educational content. We have included a brief statement for North Dakota K-12 schools and included the FERPA & Virtual Learning during COVID-19 and  to help guide you to make the best decisions for your school.  

We want to remind everyone to be vigilant about security and data privacy. There are countless offers presented to each of you for free or low cost services—many are well-intentioned and a great fit for education, some are not designed with education and data privacy in mind, and no small number are outright malicious and intended to compromise security and data privacy.

Please be sure whatever tools are used adhere to FERPA guidelines to protect educational and personal data. This frequently disqualifies many consumer products, especially free-to-use services that perform data-mining for advertisement purposes. Also, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) places requirements for collection of personal information from or about children under 13 years of age, this causes many companies, such as Facebook to decline to provide services to that age group.

We encourage all of you to be especially careful to avoid scams providing assistance or masquerading as legitimate technology companies. We are aware of an incredible increase in fake Zoom or Google domains and downloads and it would be likely other technology products are being similarly faked to install malware on devices or to capture personal and educational data.

Home networks are another area of concern with many families working, learning, and living on their home network simultaneously. Even though there are many offers to provide or increase broadband access to the internet, it is realistic to believe that many families will have parents engaging in video conferences at the same times as their children along with others in the family streaming entertainment services through TVs and other entertainment devices. It may be necessary for them to schedule and prioritize these activities through the day.  

Again, the transformation of education that has been achieved, in such a short period of time, is a testament to the outstanding work and dedication of all of you, our state’s educational champions.

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Sample Parent Letter

The NDDPI has created a sample letter that districts can use as a template to communicate COVID-19 response preparations to parents. Feel free to use this verbiage in your district's communications as plans in your district are put in place:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided guidance for schools to plan, prepare, and respond to coronavirus (COVID-19). Working together with state and local health departments, we all have an important role in slowing the spread of diseases to help ensure safe and healthy learning environments. 

While the risk to those living in the U.S. remains low, we want you to know that SCHOOL DISTRICT is monitoring the situation, and we are planning our response to the health and academic needs of students in case of an outbreak. 

The guidance we have received from the ND Department of Health is as follows:

  • wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
  • cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw it away;
  • clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces/objects regularly;
  • get plenty of rest, drink fluids, and eat healthy foods;
  • avoid close contact with people who are sick;
  • and stay home when you are sick.

SCHOOL DISTRICT stresses these same things with students each year during normal cold and flu season, and we ask that you continue to reinforce this at home.

Symptoms of the COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath. The symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. If you develop symptoms, please call your health provider and tell them about your recent travel or exposure. 

SCHOOL DISTIRCT takes the safety of our students and staff very seriously. We will continue to monitor the situation, work with state and local health officials, and follow recommended guidance as it becomes available. We have posted Coronavirus information on our SCHOOL DISTRICT website at (SCHOOL WEBSITE).

Thank you for your attention to this matter. If you have questions, contact us at PHONE NUMBER OR EMAIL.

Sincerely, 

 

SCHOOL DISTRICT SUPERINTENDENT

Contact/Correspondence