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Metro school districts hear feedback from parents about reopening plans

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Schools across the F-M metro are trying to figure out how to fill classrooms in the safest way possible, ahead of reopening in August. WDAY file photo

FARGO — The past few months have been busy ones for the Fargo School Board and its president, Robin Nelson.

Both the administration for the district and board members are trying to answer one big question: how do we reopen schools safely?

"Safety and COVID is not in the backs of everyone's minds," Nelson said. "It's on the front of everyone's minds."

The district sent out a survey to parents and staff, asking questions about cleaning and distancing policies.

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Nelson said the results — which are coming at a later date — should give a good idea of how comfortable people are.

"That's why you solicit feedback, is because you don't know what you're going to get, and so what we want is honest feedback," she said.

While Fargo figures out its district's results, other districts across the metro are starting to see the big picture.

In Moorhead, over 2,000 families responded to its district's survey, with 75% of them saying they would send their children to school, 23% saying they're uncertain and a little above 1% saying they wouldn't send them.

West Fargo's numbers are slightly different, as 63% of 3,500 families said they want schools to fully reopen, 28% want them to reopen partially and 9% said to keep them closed.

In terms of an educational experience, 80 percent of parents said they support any plan the district comes up with.

Jordan Willgohs, the president of the West Fargo Education Association, said he's still uncertain about how the numbers played out.

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"I do think it's important to get a sense of where the parents are, and I think that should be a voice in the conversation, but I don't think it should be the only voice in the conversation," he said.

Willgohs and other teachers have been working closely with West Fargo Superintendent Beth Slette to address specific concerns, like what happens if either a teacher or student tests positive for COVID-19.

As cases continue to climb, board members said they understand their worries.

"Everybody's very anxious," Nelson said. "It's not just in Fargo, but across the country."

Although most questions on reopening can't be answered at this point, Willgohs and other teachers are hoping the question of 'how' is one that can be answered.

"I don't think we're going to find (a plan) that makes everybody happy, but I'm hoping we can at least find one that makes everybody feel safe and secure," he said.

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum is expected to address early reopening guidelines for schools at his press briefing Tuesday, July 14.

Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo schools are planning on finalizing their plans on the week of Monday, July 27.

Tanner Robinson is a producer for First News on WDAY-TV.
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