TIOGA, N.D. — The Tioga School Board has reversed its stance against following North Dakota's mask mandate, after the state Department of Public Instruction said the district could face fines and lose state funding if it did not abide by the order.

Last week, the district's school board voted to not require masks in school, which put the district in violation of the mask-wearing mandate.

The statewide order, aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19, says all people in public indoor settings must wear a face-covering, and in outdoor settings when a social distance of 6 feet cannot be maintained.

"It is a mandate — it is not a recommendation — so we can’t just blatantly ignore it," said Tioga Superintendent Carolyn Eide in a Saturday, Nov. 21, statement to the northwestern North Dakota district. "Having said that, we don’t want to fight. The teachers, principals, and I are willing to work with students, and I think if we use common sense, show compassion and empathy, and work with each other, staff and students, we can make this work without hatred and anger."

The school board voted on Friday, Nov. 20, to reverse its position after state Superintendent Kirsten Baesler reached out to the district and said it could lose state funding and the district, particularly school board members, could be held liable.

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In a survey conducted earlier this month, most teachers and district residents were not in favor of mandating masks in schools, Eide told The Forum last week.

"As many of you don’t like this, many people feel it is the right action," Eide said in her Nov. 21 statement to the district. "We also need to model respect for others and for the mandate itself. We all have to do things in life we don’t agree with and don’t want to do."

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