Gov. Burgum shuts down K-12 classes across the state

School officials unsure when classes will resume, making preliminary plans for online learning

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Posted: Friday, March 20, 2020 6:00 am

Administrators in the Hillsboro and Central Valley school districts said they support Gov. Doug Burgum’s decision to suspend classes this week to slow the spread of the new coronavirus sweeping the nation.

Central Valley Superintendent Jeremy Brandt said school officials learned about Burgum’s decision about a half-hour prior to his announcement Sunday night.

“Considering everything that has transpired in the world, I’m guessing he didn’t have much a decision but to (suspend classes),” Brandt said Monday.

In a release, Burgum said the decision to close the state’s K-12 schools came after talks with school superintendents, medical experts and the state Department of Health.

The five-day closure gives the state more time to gather data, assess treatment capabilities and plan for education in the event the COVID-19 pandemic worsens, he said.

“We remain in a state of calm and continue to base our decisions on fact, not fear,” Burgum said. “We want to work through the situation, gain understanding and make sure we’re driven by data and solid strategies.”

Hillsboro Public Schools Superintendent Paula Suda texted a survey to parents Monday morning to gauge their ability to feed their children during the school closure.

The survey also asked whether parents and children had a wifi connection at home and if they had a device to access the internet.

The district received 263 responses from the Google survey within three hours.

Ninety percent of families indicated they wouldn’t need an internet-capable device while 7 percent responded they were unsure, according to Suda.

The Hillsboro school administrator said officials still were trying to determine how to provide meals for children, especially if Burgum extends the K-12 school closure.

“The food situation is tricky. We want to see if (breakfasts and lunches) are available, if parents will pick them up,” Suda said.

“The school can offer two meals and a snack if parents choose, so we may start doing that if there is a high need.”

In that scenario, sack lunches would be made available for pickup, although in certain cases school staff could be asked to deliver meals, Suda said.

“For people who can’t pick it up, we’re probably use some of our hourly employees or bus drivers to do them,” she added. “We’re here to help.”

Central Valley administrators began posting links on Facebook on Sunday to online educational resources as a way to keep kids engaged during the closure.

Brandt said school custodians were performing a deep clean of the rural Buxton school Monday. He expected that process to continue throughout the week.

No parents called to complain about the abrupt closure, Brandt said. “I’m guessing parents realized it was out of our hands at this point,” he said.

Brandt said administrators haven’t been informed whether school will resume Monday.

“We’re awaiting those directives like the rest of the world is,” he said.

Suda said Hillsboro’s teachers were making plans to use Google Classroom, a free web service, to offer curriculum to students in grades 5-12 if the closure gets extended.

Students in grades K-4 could be given assignments on Seesaw, an online app, or be sent packets from teachers to continue the learning process, she said.

Children residing in homes without a device to access the internet could borrow tablets from the school to keep up with their peers, Suda said.

In addition to regular classroom instruction, Hillsboro-Central Valley’s sports practices, open gyms and extracurricular events have been temporarily suspended.

Central Valley’s prom April 4 and Hillsboro’s dance March 28 will more than likely be postponed as well.

“Our prom is in danger of not being held on that date, but I certainly would like to think we’ll have it before the end of the year,” Brandt said.

Teachers and school staff in both districts will be paid during the school closure.

The Hillsboro Fitness Center, operated by Hillsboro Public Schools, will remain open, although members are asked to wipe down equipment before and after use.

Suda encouraged parents to keep their children home until classes resume in North Dakota – whenever that may be.

“Going outside is fine, but having large groups of kids over to your house is frowned on,” Suda said. “Keep the kids at home and practice social distancing.

“We’re dealing with a lot of unknowns right now and that can be a scary thing for kids. Take good care of them and explain to them that this isn’t the time to panic. Be the voice of reason that your kids need so they don’t get scared.”

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