Burgum open to waiving school closure days

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BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today said he is willing to consider granting waivers on a case-by-case basis for school districts that have canceled school because of severe winter storms and dangerously cold temperatures in recent weeks, provided certain criteria are met.

Under state law, if a school must close because of weather or other emergency situations, the district “shall make every effort to reschedule the remaining classes, so that students receive at least the number of full instructional days required.” [North Dakota Century Code 15.1-27-23(3)]. This can be done in the following ways:

  • Districts may schedule instructional days on the designated snow days that they are required by law to include in their school calendar and use if needed. Make-up days cannot be considered as part of a waiver application and by law cannot be waived.
  • Qualifying districts may utilize one allowed academic day (grace day). A qualifying district is one that schedules school days that are at least 30 minutes longer than required by law.
  • Districts may make up missed instructional time by lengthening the school day – i.e., 30 minutes per day and/or scheduling an instructional day on Saturday and/or adding an instructional day to the end of the school year.

Burgum said he will consider waiving weather-related closure days if, as required by law, a district has made every effort to make up the missed instruction time. For each school day, the state expends roughly $5.5 million to provide for the education of North Dakota children.

“We are seeking to balance our responsibility as stewards of taxpayer dollars with gratitude for the hard work of our educators and our commitment to preventing undue hardship. Every day of instruction is important to the education of our children, and both students and taxpayers deserve the value of a complete academic year,” Burgum said. “There has not been a single day this academic year during which every district in the state has been closed. Therefore, a statewide waiver would be inappropriate for those districts that provided instruction when others didn’t, due to our state’s geographic size and highly variable weather.”

Under state law, any public school or school district for which the rescheduling of classes would create undue hardship may request that the governor waive the rescheduling in whole or in part.

In the near future, the Governor’s Office will distribute a survey to school districts to understand the impacts of severe weather events on districts across the state. A waiver application period will open March 1 and close March 15. If additional severe winter weather occurs between now and March 15, the application deadline may be extended.

The Governor’s Office will review each district’s waiver application in the totality of their circumstances. The governor will look at the number of major weather incidents the districts/regions experienced and what efforts the district has made to ensure students receive as much of their legally mandated instruction as possible.

If and when school districts apply for a waiver, it will be essential to provide as much specificity as possible so the governor can make an informed decision. Additionally, if districts demonstrate they are attempting to meet the law’s intent of ensuring an effective education by utilizing alternative, non-timebound instructional strategies in place of adding days or hours to the calendar, that will also be taken into consideration.

For more information about weather-related school closings, visit the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction’s website.

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