BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum and State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler today released the K-12 Smart Restart guidelines to help North Dakota school districts plan for reopening this fall to provide a safe, high-quality educational experience for all students.
Developed in collaboration with education associations, tribal leaders, stakeholders and interim State Health Officer Dr. Andrew Stahl, the K-12 Smart Restart guidelines emphasize local control and decision-making by school boards and administrators in consultation with local public health units and based on guidance from the North Dakota Department of Health, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other resources.
Burgum and Baesler noted that because of how swiftly the state acted on closing schools to in-person instruction on March 15 – just four days after North Dakota’s first COVID-19 case was identified – officials have yet to manage in-person teaching and learning for the state’s 121,000 K-12 students during the pandemic.
“We’re entering new territory this fall with a dual purpose: to focus on providing the highest-quality education for all students and safeguarding the health and safety of students, staff, families and communities,” Burgum said, noting COVID-19 cases are climbing in North Dakota but the state’s positive test rate remains low, at 2.3% today. “We still have work to do, and it’s not time for us to change course. We must continue to be North Dakota Smart to keep COVID-19 in check.”
Baesler said the K-12 Smart Restart guidance gives school boards and administrators the information they need to make decisions for the education of children while keeping the safety of their communities in mind.
“North Dakota’s children are looking to us as adults to help them adjust to life with COVID-19. They will be watching us and looking to us for answers, guidance and security. Today’s guidance is the next step in that journey,” Baesler said. “We are committed to supporting and partnering with our schools and families to provide a safe, high-quality education experience for all students.”
The K-12 Smart Restart guidance requires each district’s school board to approve a Health and Safety Plan in consultation with their local public health unit. Among other requirements, the plan must identify a COVID-19 team or coordinator to oversee the district’s health and safety preparedness; protocols for social distancing; and processes for identifying and protecting children and staff at higher risk with an opportunity for continued distancing teaching and learning.
Districts also will need to have a school board-approved, updated Distance Learning Plan on file. Local communities can decide if teaching and learning should be conducted face-to-face, via distance learning or a hybrid of the two.
Both plans must be created in consultation with faculty, families, staff and students and published on the district’s website.