Older Fargo students won't shift to full-time online classes next month — if pandemic conditions hold

Children from Roosevelt Elementary wait patiently to take their turn boarding the schoolbus (2).jpg
Roosevelt Elementary students wait for their turn to board a school bus on Sept. 2 in Fargo. C.S. Hagen / The Forum

FARGO — The Fargo School District has revised its Smart Restart Plan so that middle school and high school students won't transition to online learning next month under the current pandemic instruction level.

Since the first day of school last week, the district limited class sizes by splitting students into A and B groups, and middle school and high school students were expecting to shift to full-time distance learning in October.

“In Level 3, hybrid instruction, middle school and high school students will not transition to online learning beginning Oct. 5,” Superintendent Rupak Gandhi wrote in a Tuesday, Sept. 8, email to parents. “Students will continue in the A/B rotation that is currently taking place.”

After North Dakota health officials updated guidance and protocols to resemble Minnesota's definition of a hybrid instructional plan level, the district's COVID-19 Instructional Plan Committee voted to adopt the state of North Dakota’s revised definition. Then Fargo Public Schools revised their model to mirror the state’s definition, Gandhi said.

“Because the committee voted to adopt that model, today we just clarified, we voted on that model using their definition of hybrid, meaning you don’t push online. Online is online. So we changed our plan, or the words in our plan, so that kids never go online and will continue on that A/B rotation,” Gandhi said.


“The model we are using to determine what plan level we’re in is based on the 14-day rolling average of Cass County cases, so we’re aligning our plan language to the model that we’re using,” district spokesperson AnnMarie Campbell said.

Middle and high school buildings were originally slated to become "guided practice centers" for helping elementary students after distance learning began. “Instead, guided practice opportunities will be held in available spaces throughout the district, which include a combination of elementary and secondary buildings,” Gandhi said.

Last week, COVID-19 cases among students were reported in Fargo public schools.

“Yes, we have cases in our schools. I don’t have exact numbers across the board right now,” Gandhi said. “If there is an emergency situation or numbers drastically change, then I reserve the right to make a decision or call a committee meeting.”

The district’s revision to its plan Tuesday came from recommendations from the North Dakota Department of Health and state Department of Public Instruction saying that school closures should not occur if there is no community spread and no cases in a school building.

When there's a case of COVID-19 in a school, the student must be isolated from school for 10 days, and those who came in close contact must be placed in quarantine for two weeks. With two or more cases in a school, state and local health officials will provide guidance and specific classrooms may have to be shut down, according to the new guidance.

The district's COVID-19 Instructional Plan Committee meets next on Monday, Sept. 21.

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