BISMARCK — Bismarck Public Schools announced Wednesday, Sept. 9, that 29 students and staff members have tested positive for COVID-19 since schools opened their doors on Aug. 24.

Bismarck Public Schools, which is North Dakota's largest school district with 13,276 students enrolled for the 2020-21 school year, is teaching students with a mix of remote and in-person learning. Students must wear masks when a 6-foot social distance cannot be maintained.

Of the 29 students and staff who have tested positive, six are elementary school students and 14 are in secondary school. Seven elementary school staff members have tested positive while two secondary staff members tested positive.

With more than 15,600 students and employees in the district, 258 were quarantined after being in close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.

The first day of school for the district was Aug. 31. Teachers and other staff were in schools the week before.

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Burleigh and Morton counties have been the state's COVID-19 hotspot for more than a month, with the two counties reporting a 5.92% 14-day positivity rate as of Monday. Burleigh County, with Bismarck as its largest city, has the most active cases in the state with 403 people known to be affected with the illness as of Wednesday.

Bismarck Public Schools' 14-day positive or close contact rate is 1.83%, according to the district.

The district released the prevalence of COVID-19 in its school while many statewide have opted not to do so. Gov. Doug Burgum and the Department of Public Instruction say releasing the number of cases in schools could compromise a student's privacy, though federal laws say schools can release school COVID-19 information to the public as long as it is non-identifying.

The state Department of Public Instruction is working on developing a system to keep the public informed about COVID-19 school cases statewide, according to North Dakota Superintendent Kirsten Baesler.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America corps member, at mgriffith@forumcomm.com