School Closure Frequently Asked Questions

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Academic and Career and Technical Education Scholarships

(Updated March 25, 3:00 pm) 

Q: What about deadlines in North Dakota law for having high school tests and course work completed to qualify for an academic or CTE scholarship?

A: The Department of Public Instruction has asked the governor to issue an executive order to extend those deadlines.

Q: What impact does the use of pass/fail grading have on scholarship qualifications?

A: To get an academic or CTE scholarship, a student needs to take a number of required courses and have a grade-point average of 3.0 or better. Classes that use pass/fail grading may not be used to satisfy scholarship requirements.

Assessments 

(Updated March 25, 12:15 pm) 

ACT

All state-wide assessments for accountability have been canceled for the year. This includes NDSA, NDAA, and ACT. 

Due to the indefinite closure of North Dakota schools, NDDPI has made the difficult decision to cancel all ACT Makeup Testing dates for this spring. ACT has offered North Dakota and its juniors who were not able to test on the initial test date of March 3, 2020, the opportunity to take the ACT with Writing on either the June 2020 or July 2020 national test date, at no cost to them.

NDDPI is currently working with ACT to obtain vouchers. This process will take several weeks. NDDPI will share the vouchers with schools when available.  Schools will be responsible to deliver the vouchers to students. Students will need to go to ACT’s Website to register for the national June 13, 2020 or July 18, 2020 test date, using the state provided voucher, by the registration deadline. On this registration site, students will be able to choose an available test center nearest to them.

Schools must email the Office of Assessment by Wednesday, April 15, 2020, to request vouchers for their juniors who were not able to test on the initial state ACT test date. In the email, please provide the number of juniors who need vouchers for either the June 13, 2020 or July 18, 2020 national test dates. Only one voucher will be allowed per student, but vouchers will work for either test date.

Career and Technical Education

(Updated March 30, 10:23 am)

Q:  Will students be allowed to participate in career and technical education labs, in small groups, in school buildings?

A: No. On-site student instruction in a school/education building is barred by the governor’s executive order.

Q:  Are students allowed to work remotely on various job sites, in small groups. For example, a building trades program is building a house on a residential lot. Are they permitted to do so?

A: Yes. That activity is not inside a school building. It would also be permissible to have a teacher assist/supervise them.

Distance Learning 

(Updated March 25, 1:45 pm) 

Q: Can I submit multiple versions of my District Distance Learning Plan for consideration?

A: To provide districts the feedback and approval they desire (and need) of their district learning plan as quickly as possible, we must make our review process as efficient as possible, therefore;

  • Each school district is allowed to submit their complete and entire plan (with all attachments) one time
  • NDDPI will either recommend approval or provide feedback to each district one time
  • If your plan is not recommended for approval on its initial submission, a district can re-submit and NDDPI will review a final time and send to the Governor

Q: Can I use a template for my District Distance Learning Plan?

A: There have been plans in template format being received that don’t meet all the expectations outlined in the Governor and NDDPI’s guidance.  We encourage districts to use the guidance on the NDDPI website to address the components within your local plan. If you choose to utilize a format, please use the template created by Luke Schaefer and CREA.

Q: Is school board approval required before a district may submit its distance learning plan to the Department of Public Instruction? 

A: No. School board approval is not required before the plan is submitted. However, these plans should be reviewed by the district’s school board at the board’s next regular meeting. 

Q: Will the plans being submitted by districts for approval under the Innovation bill be available to the public? 

A: On March 19, 2020, Gov. Burgum referred to distance learning plans that school districts would be required to develop as part of his executive order to close schools until further notice. NDDPI will be receiving these plans. The submission deadline is Friday, March 27. The plans will be public records.  

As he was discussing distance learning plans, the governor mentioned SB2186, an education innovation bill that was approved by the Legislature in 2017. The distance learning plans will not be “innovation plans” under SB2186, because that law has a number of implementation requirements that cannot be met within a few weeks. However, it should be pointed out that education innovation plans that are drafted in response to SB2186 are also public records. 

Q: We have put a plan in place to provide our classrooms through online means. Should we move forward with this, or move our focus to a plan to reopen our doors? We do believe we can go mobile right now but will have some questions over some of the special education requirements. 

A: Gov. Burgum has asked district and school leaders to develop a comprehensive plan. The plan should focus both on the short term (if school is reopened) and the long term (extended closing of schools). NDDPI has posted guidance to help school leaders develop these plans. 

Q: What is being done for students who may be disadvantaged in education because they do not have home access to high-speed broadband connections? 

A: The North Dakota Information Technology agency is analyzing which student homes lack access to high-speed broadband. The Broadband Association of North Dakota, which represents high-speed Internet providers, and the Dakota Carrier Network, which provides broadband connections statewide, are working on solutions to get access to those homes. Another note: Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have removed data caps on their services. 

Q: You mentioned NDIT is looking into ensuring high-speed internet is available for students free of charge for four months. We are a private school. If we send our directory information to them, will they include our students in this service? We have a few families without reliable access at this time and are working on options, this seems to be the best option to meet the need.  

A: BEK Communications, a broadband provider based in Steele, is providing four months’ service for free to a student’s family if they don’t currently take broadband service. After that, the family becomes a subscriber. Other telecommunications cooperatives or businesses may be offering something similar. Families and schools may want to work with providers in their area.  

Q: If we give our students books, papers and pencils, and a device to connect to the internet, can we have them complete the work as a home bound student due to pandemic? Otherwise do you want me to just have the students sit at home and do nothing?  

A: There are many methods for delivering distance education, including the ones you mentioned. We are confident our school administrators will be able to work through these challenges. We have seen many excellent examples of this already. NDDPI guidance on distance learning will be posted shortly on our agency website, and local school districts should be communicating with you shortly about their plans, if they have not already. 

Educators 

(Updated April 14, 2020)

Q: What happens to this year’s required teacher evaluations?

A: Gov. Burgum’s executive order suspended the requirement that school teachers, principals, assistant superintendents, and associate superintendents receive an annual, written performance review by April 15 if they have been employed for four years or more. The requirement that teachers, principals, assistant superintendents and associate superintendents with three years or less in the job be reviewed twice each year remained in place.

The governor’s order suspends Subsection 2 of NDCC 15.1-15-01. The order does not prevent evaluations of more experienced educators if a superintendent decides to go ahead with them. It also does not affect evaluations of superintendents, which are done by school boards.

(Updated March 23,10:23 am) 

Q: May a school provide professional development for teachers online during mandatory professional development days? 

A: Yes. 

Q: Will districts expect teachers to put in time equivalent to an instructional day? 

A: That is a local decision that each district will determine. 

Family Engagement for Early Learners

(Updated March 23, 3:45 pm)

Q: How do I register my four-year-old for this program?

A: Families can register for this family engagement early learning program directly by completing the pre-registration form online or by calling 1-888-982-9898.

Q: Who do I contact for assistance?

A: You can contact Carolyn Kueber in the Office of Early Learning at (701) 328-1640.

Q: How can I find more information?

A: Please view the flyer for additional information.

Miscellaneous

(Updated March 23,10:23 am) 

Q: Does the governor’s executive order to close schools include a licensed preschool? 

A: Yes, if the preschool is affiliated with a K-12 school. 

Q: Gov. Burgum is ordering schools to be closed, service to be restricted at bars and restaurants, and other measures intended to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus. What is the penalty for violating an executive order? 

A: A fine of up to $1,000. 

Q:  If the Governor’s guidance was a recommendation for schools to close, can we still choose to have school? 

A. No. The Governor’s most recent executive order directed all public K-12 schools to be closed to on-site student instruction until further notice. Schools shall refrain from normal education and activities during this time. 

Q: Our entire school has fewer than 50 students. Can we reopen? 

A: If a school closing is ordered by the Governor, the school cannot be in session, regardless of its size. 

Q:  Are schools still required to provide school counseling services to students? 

A: When providing virtual learning opportunities during this time, schools must continue to provide school counseling services, even if this is done electronically. There is guidance from the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) relating to virtual school counseling during an emergency shutdown. School counselors still must follow all ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors and see their position statement on virtual school counseling. School counselors should also work collaboratively with all stakeholders to ensure equity, access, and success of all students by whatever method that virtual school counseling is offered.

Q: How will dual credit courses handle the closure due to COVID-19? 

A: Dual credit course arrangements are coordinated between the individual high school and the NDUS college or university offering the course.  If there are questions regarding dual credit courses for the spring semester, individuals should contact the local school to learn how the district and the college or university partner have determined to handle school closure.

Open Meetings 

(Updated March 23,10:23 am) 

Q: What effect does the governor’s state of emergency declaration, the closing of schools, social distancing requirements, etc. have on North Dakota’s open meeting requirements? 

A: The state of emergency does not impact open meeting requirements.  Virtual meetings may be held if the public may participate by phone, skype or some other remote conferencing system. A virtual meeting may go into executive session for the reasons specified in state law, using a second connection or phone line. 

Prom and Graduation

(Updated March 30,10:23 am) 

Q: What is the effect of not having a graduation ceremony?

A: A student’s school transcript shows whether he or she is a high school graduate. The walk across the stage is strictly ceremonial. It is not necessary to go through a graduation ceremony to graduate from high school.

Q: Will we be able to have a graduation ceremony at the normal time, say mid-May?

A: That is extremely unlikely. However, some schools are planning to hold graduation ceremonies when the present social distancing guidelines are relaxed or eliminated, which could happen during the summertime.

Q: What is the feel statewide on prom?

A: The chances for schools holding a “normal” prom are about zero. The Centers for Disease Control has extended “social distancing” guidelines to April 30. However, schools are not barred from organizing proms whenever the present social distancing guidelines are relaxed or eliminated.

School Operations

(Updated April 14, 6:11 p.m.) 

Q: The Centers for Disease Control guidelines advise to “avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.” Does this mean that employee meetings with more than 10 people should not be held? 

A: The definition of “social gatherings” does not include work or schools. It refers to gatherings in which the people who are gathered don’t meet regularly or may not know each other. 

Q: What about the deadlines in state law for conducting teacher evaluations? Can those be extended? 

A: Gov. Burgum’s executive order suspended the requirement that school teachers, principals, assistant superintendents, and associate superintendents receive an annual, written performance review by April 15 if they have been employed for four years or more. The requirement that teachers, principals, assistant superintendents and associate superintendents with three years or less in the job be reviewed twice each year remained in place.

The governor’s order suspends Subsection 2 of NDCC 15.1-15-01. The order does not prevent evaluations of more experienced educators if a superintendent decides to go ahead with them. It also does not affect evaluations of superintendents, which are done by school boards.

Q: (This is a composite of several pay-related questions.) I am a paraprofessional/administrative assistant/support person in my school district. If we do shut down all the schools in North Dakota for a week, or several weeks, will we still get paid? Will we be required to use our vacation/sick/emergency leave? 

A: Pay decisions are in the hands of local school administrators and school boards. School districts have already received 92 percent of the state education aid for which they budgeted during the 2019-20 school year. They will receive the remaining installment in April, once they have an approved plan for teaching students by distance learning. 

Superintendent Kirsten Baesler and Gov. Doug Burgum have said they want schools to pay their employees during these school closings, and that school districts should have the money to do so. 

(Updated March 30,10:23 am) 

Q: Can preschools that are linked to a K-12 school still charge you a monthly fee, even though schools are closed?

A: Yes.

Q: Is staff who have been at work being paid by the district or by the state?

A: The district. (A major source of school district revenue is state education aid payments.)

Q: Please clarify which employees are essential and whether hourly staff is getting paid.

A: Essential employees are designated by school district administrators. Decisions on whether to pay hourly employees who are not working are in the hands of school district administrators.

(Updated March 23,10:23 am) 

Q: The Centers for Disease Control guidelines advise to “avoid social gatherings in groups of more than 10 people.” Does this mean that employee meetings with more than 10 people should not be held? 

A: The definition of “social gatherings” does not include work or schools. It refers to gatherings in which the people who are gathered don’t meet regularly or may not know each other. 

Q: What about the deadlines in state law for conducting teacher evaluations? Can those be extended? 

A: The governor intends to address this issue in an executive order. There are a number of education-related deadlines, including evaluations for teachers and administrators, that are likely to be addressed in a forthcoming executive order. 

Q: (This is a composite of several pay-related questions.) I am a paraprofessional/administrative assistant/support person in my school district. If we do shut down all the schools in North Dakota for a week, or several weeks, will we still get paid? Will we be required to use our vacation/sick/emergency leave? 

A: Pay decisions are in the hands of local school administrators and school boards. School districts have already received 92 percent of the state education aid for which they budgeted during the 2019-20 school year. They will receive the remaining installment in April, once they have an approved plan for teaching students by distance learning. 

Superintendent Kirsten Baesler and Gov. Doug Burgum have said they want schools to pay their employees during these school closings, and that school districts should have the money to do so. 

Special Education

(Updated April 16th, 9:16 am) 

Q: What is the difference between an Individual Education Program (IEP) and a Contingency Plan?

A: The current IEP remains in effect. The NDDPI has suggested writing new IEPs as they come due.  The IEP will describe the individual education program as implemented upon school reopening.

The individual contingency plan describes the current distance learning services/accommodations being implemented during school closure.  The individual contingency plan may be amended to address any changes in the student’s distance learning during school closure.

Q: When school-based physical therapists, occupational therapists, and speech-language pathologists deliver services via telepractice, does the platform they use need to be compliant with the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)?

A: School districts/special education units should do their best to provide school-based OT, PT and SLP services through a secured connection (HIPAA and FERPA compliant).  If providing services through a secured connection is not viable, school districts/special education units should follow the guidance provided by, and explore alternatives suggested by, the Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Civil Rights and the Executive Order 2020-05.1 signed by Gov. Doug Burgum on March 13, 2020.

Q: What should we be doing for 2-7 meetings, pre-K initial evaluations, and the part C to part B transitions? Do we hold profile/2-7 meetings with Early Intervention families? If so, and schools are canceled, how do we test children?  What if families decline home visits to conduct meetings? How are we to evaluate 2- to 5-year-olds with the 6-foot separation recommendations provided? 

A: NDDPI has reached out to national organizations such as the Office of Special Education Programs, the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education. We are currently awaiting guidance about timelines for transitioning children from Part C to Part B.  At this time, we urge programs to continue to make attempts, as you would with other Individual Education Plan meetings. Districts should consider ways to conduct initial evaluations and use distance technology to the extent possible. Collaborate with Part C providers and connect virtually if possible. Communicate with your families and document your interactions and attempts to provide services. Additional guidance on providing services to children with disabilities. 

Q: What should we plan to do with early childhood outcomes and exit scores?  Should we be doing those without the anchor tool assessment, or would more informal assessments suffice? 

A:  NDDPI has reached out to national organizations such as the Office of Special Education Programs, the Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center, and the National Association of State Directors of Special Education for help with timelines for completion of Early Childhood Outcomes. Look at each student individually and determine if giving the anchor tool by distance learning is appropriate. Consider using all information available, such as parent report, observation and prior assessments to make informed decisions. Please communicate with your families, and document all attempts to provide services and decisions made by the Individual Education Plan team. Additional guidance on providing services to children with disabilities. 

Q: If Early Intervention families want us to hold virtual 2-7s, how do we review their procedural safeguards and give them a copy before the meeting? Can we direct them to the NDDPI website for the link rather than provide a copy? When are they supposed to sign consent for the evaluation process, releases for DD to be present for the 2-7 meeting, outside agency releases, and eventually initial consent for special education placement, etc.?

A: NDDPI recognizes that during this unusual time, programs will need to be creative and diligent in ensuring parents are informed of their procedural rights and safeguards.  We advise using distance learning methods, email, and links to the NDDPI website as needed to assist in verification and communication with families. Additional guidance on providing services to children with disabilities. 

Q: As we look to hold Integrated Written Assessment Reports (IWAR)/initial Individual Education Programs (IEP), what is the IEP start date for children who are in Head Start or community programs?  We have five school days before they HAVE to start. Do we just use that five-day start date, and document the situation, or is there another suggestion for a start date?

A: Continue attempting to provide services and meet transition timelines. Until we have additional federal guidance, you should attempt to maintain your timeline dates, while documenting any issues that arise because of the virus situation.

Q: If we are completing an Integrated Written Assessment Report (IWAR) and making an eligibility statement for a student who has a specific learning disability (SLD) through a virtual meeting, how should we move forward with the requirement of obtaining the parent(s) signature?

A: If you are completing an Integrated Written Assessment Report (IWAR) for a Specific Learning Disability (SLD), the parent must sign a document indicating that he or she agreed with the determination. If you are not able to obtain a parent signature in person, you may consider emailing an image of the document to the parent. The parent could then sign the document and send it back to you.

Every attempt should be made to obtain the parent’s signature. If circumstances do not allow this, verbal confirmation may be appropriate. Documentation should be done that states the parent agrees or disagrees with the determination, and that the parent is giving verbal consent to the IWAR/SLD document. Include documentation of how current circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic led to verbal consent, rather than written consent.

Q: Will students that receive 1:1 nursing care still be receiving this service during remote learning?

A: This service can be addressed through Individual Education Program team decision and planning, which includes the local education agency.  Consideration for telehealth or outpatient services may be addressed, as well as incremental to full-service delivery in the home setting.

Sports

 (Updated March 23,10:23 am) 

Q: With the school closures and the suspension of all activities, I have a question about eSports. The league we are using across North Dakota (PlayVS) has decided to allow students to compete from home. May eSports resume next week (March 23?) I know not all students have access to computers at home, but for those that do, this could bring some normalcy back to our students and maybe give them something to look forward to during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A: These questions would be best answered by local school administrators or the North Dakota High School Activities Association. 

State Aid to Schools 

(Updated March 23,10:23 am) 

Q: Will schools’ state aid payments be reduced because of the closure? 

A: Gov. Burgum has ordered public K-12 schools closed to all but essential personnel until further notice. Because of the order’s prohibition against on-site student instruction in schools, the governor has waived school districts’ responsibility to make up any instructional time lost through April 1.  

Starting on April 1, schools will be responsible for providing distance learning for students. This distance learning will count as instructional time, which is linked to state education aid payments. Districts will not receive their April state aid payment until they have an approved distance learning plan in place.  

State education aid payments to schools are distributed in nine installments during the school year. The payments for the 2019-20 school year started in August 2019. North Dakota school districts have already received 92% of the state aid they were expecting for the 2019-20 school year. 

21st Century Community Learning Centers

(Updated March 25, 3:00 pm) 

Q: Because of North Dakota schools being closed from March 16 until further notice, will hours have to be added to meet the 21st CCLC 320-hour requirement?

A:No.The governor has waived the requirement to make up hours from school closures starting on March 16, 2020. Districts must have plans in place to support distance learning by April 1, 2020. Programs should be planning along with their local districts and communities on how to support students and families. Please work with the State 21st CCLC Administrator when programs resume to determine how to best meet the needs of the students and families.

Q: With our program shut down, can we continue to pay 21st CCLC staff?

  • Programs are encouraged to continue to pay all staff during the shutdown to alleviate potential financial instability and hardship for employees. Staff should be assigned projects and activities related to program planning. Work logs should be kept. However, there will not be additional 21st CCLC funds allocated to support additional staff requirements. If modifications to your budget need to be made, please work with your State 21st CCLC Administrator.

The NDDPI believes that sub-grantees should continue to pay salaries for their staff as related to their goals and project plans. A variety of activities that are part of 21st Century Community Learning Centers programs may continue. Activities must be in support of program goals and directly related to program effectiveness and student achievement. Allowable uses of money include:

  • Distance learning for students, using platforms to which students have access. If distance learning is not an option, an attempt can be made to provide other activities and learning supplements to students.
  • In the case where a school-age child-care program licensed by the Department of Human Services and supported by 21st Century Community Learning Centers program funds continues to operate (at the discretion of school/district administrators), program activities may continue. Parents should be encouraged to keep children home. School-age child care programs that continue to operate should be limited and serve only students for whom no other reasonable care alternatives exist. Aggressive hygiene and disinfecting practices, and social distancing, should be followed. Please contact the early childhood services office if you have questions.
  • School collaboration efforts (such as resource building, evidence-based math and reading support, etc.).
  • Fiscal Year 2021 21st CCLC Continuation Plan preparation (deadline May 15).
  • Virtual staff meetings by conference calls, Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, or other methods.
  • Family education and engagement opportunities.
  • Curriculum work and lesson plan development (must be specific to the 21st CCLC program).
  • 21st CCLC program data entry and validation.
  • Online professional development for staff.
  • Systems planning work (for example, summer programs, evaluation, sustainability, safety, budgeting).
  • Online programming for youth that may be reasonable and necessary.
  • Other expectations and associated job tasks listed in job descriptions that are reasonable and necessary during the closure period.
  • Gathering virtual and off-site student materials and information to support families.
  • Administrative costs associated with programs.

Note: Final approval of work and work protocols are the responsibility of the local school district or organization awarded the grant. Hours worked should remain commensurate to program need. Federal supplement not supplant provisions remain in force.

If the afterschool program is relocated to alternate sites or buildings, please be sure it is in coordination with the school district as applicable, and that all programs (schools and non-schools) consult with their local health department on the best procedures for your area.

Q: Will there be virtual PD opportunities for staff during the school closings?

Q: What about After-School snacks or meals?

A: Continuity of food services, especially for students experiencing poverty, is an important factor that the NDDPI expects districts to consider before deciding to close school. The U.S. Agriculture Department is providing information about this. The NDDPI will work closely with affected schools regarding options for serving meals, should the need arise. The NDDPI has applied for waivers from the USDA to make it easier to serve meals.

Q: Will we be required to collect data during the school closure period?

A. Continue to maintain thorough records of daily hours and general work type by employee, just as you do during open school. The tracking of any lost program time, lower attendance results, lower expenditure patterns, and/or other outcome data will be collected as part of the end-of-year reporting process. Reasonable and fair accommodations will be made regarding any reduction in results.

Transportation

(Updated April 14, 2020, 5:40 p.m.)

Q: We are running buses to deliver meals and homework and pick up assignments. Will we be compensated for those miles?

A: Federal CARES Act money may be used to reimburse districts’ transportation costs for those activities. State law does not provide for transportation payments beyond the cost of transporting students. When completing the 2019-20 transportation report, districts should report miles and rides for transportation routes through March 13, 2020.

Q: Is the state willing to use a district’s mileage and rides information from the 2018-19 school year in budgeting for the 2020-2021 transportation payment?

A: State law specifies transportation reimbursement rates for school districts. (SB2013, Section 10, approved by the 2019 Legislature). Payments are made according to the number of miles traveled and the number of students transported. There is no provision for estimating or “pro-rating” transportation costs. The governor, the superintendent of public instruction, and the Legislature’s Budget Section cannot override those provisions. However, federal CARES Act money may be used to make up for transportation payments lost because of North Dakota’s school closings. When completing the 2019-20 transportation report, districts should plan to report miles and rides for transportation routes through March 13, 2020.

Q: When can the Legislature revisit this issue?

A: The 2021 session begins Jan. 5. The Legislature has authority to make emergency appropriations. Gov. Burgum also has the option of calling a special session of the Legislature to deal with this issue and others.

Q: What if we have been giving half-payments (about a week and two days) to bus route contractors, but we would like to pay them in full?

A: Federal CARES Act relief funds may be used for this purpose.