Local private school returning to in-person classes asks parents to sign COVID-19 waivers
MOORHEAD — While public schools in the metro area are starting the fall with hybrid models, local private schools are heading back to in-person classes, and one school is asking parents to sign a liability waiver related to COVID-19.
Park Christian School reopens Monday, Aug. 31, with full-time in-person classes, and school officials sent a letter to parents on Aug. 17 that included the liability waiver for them to sign.
“We have put in place preventative measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but we cannot guarantee that you or your family members will not become infected with COVID-19,” the waiver states. “On behalf of yourself and your children, you hereby release, covenant not to sue, discharge, and hold harmless Park Christian School, its employees, agents, and representatives, of and from all liabilities, claims, actions, damages, costs or expenses of any kind arising out of or relating to your participation in our programs, services or activities."
Teresa Nickel, Park Christian's director of admissions and marketing, confirmed that the school "is asking parents to sign a waiver agreeing and choosing to participate in school programs."
Public schools in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo, along with the other local private schools, Oak Grove Lutheran School and JPII Catholic Schools, are not asking parents to sign liability waivers related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Park Christian, however, is not alone in making such a request. What some call "death waivers" are showing up around the country. Schools, gyms , sports teams and companies are asking students, customers and employees to sign COVID-19 waivers.
Though not all Park Christian parents are signing the waiver.
Ryan Rankin, who's eighth-grade son has attended the school since kindergarten, said he refused to sign.
“I’m not signing the waiver. If he were to get COVID from school exposure, I’m going to hold them responsible,” Rankin said.
Rankin noted that the school is currently not offering a distance learning option. "They’re asking us to waive all accountability, and I think it’s a terrible thing to ask since they’re a private entity,” he said.
Park Christian, at 300 17th St. N. in Moorhead, has four threat levels in place and will reopen under threat level two. Class sizes allow for social distancing, Nickel said, and under threat level four remote education will begin.
The school’s plan includes a transition to distance learning if needed, Nickel said, adding that plans are also in place to help students in quarantine. Decisions based on information from Cass and Clay counties’ COVID-19 case rates and school positive rates will be made once every two weeks, she said.
Rankin wanted to give Park Christian an opportunity to reconsider its plan, he said, but may begin enrolling his son in a different school.
Park Christian, which has about 400 students, has recently had its share of legal trouble.
The school was sued for wrongful death of two Moorhead brothers who died in a crash on Interstate 94 while traveling to a 2015 basketball tournament in Wisconsin. And the school was accused of discrimination in federal court in May.