WEST FARGO — West Fargo Public Schools continues to see lower cases of COVID-19 in the district, helping officials feel comfortable sending more students back to learning in schools.

West Fargo Schools has had all elementary school children onsite for four days of instruction each week since Nov. 30. West Fargo Superintendent Beth Slette said Monday, Jan. 11, the data and public appear supportive of bringing more students back to the schools as well as allowing elementary schools to open for five days per week.

"I know people want answers, like right now or yesterday," Slette said.

She told the school board that she is still hoping to return elementary students to five days a week of in-person learning on Jan. 25. However, the decision will not be formally made until the Return to Learn Committee meets on Tuesday, Jan. 12, after press time.

Grade six began a four-day week of in person classes on Monday, Jan. 11.

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Students in grades 7-12 are expected to be back for four days per week starting Jan. 25.

Wednesdays will continue to be online learning days for students.

On Monday, 12 students had tested positive for COVID-19, 53 students were in quarantine due to close contact and seven staff had also tested positive, numbers that were considerably lower than those reported prior to the end of 2020.

Slette said Monday that health officials warned the district may see an uptick in positive tests caused by close contact over the holiday season as late as last week, but Monday's low numbers were encouraging.

"If you look at the trend, those numbers are really low," Slette said. "Quarantines are coming down as well, so that is very positive."

West Fargo Public Schools allows families to use a full-time virtual learning model if they are not comfortable returning to the classroom.

Human Resources Director Robin Hill said each building was allowed to shift a set amount aside for virtual instructors. Some buildings hired long-term substitute teachers and others hired long-term paraprofessionals, but it was up to each school.

The school board approved hiring a fourth grade elementary teacher, one high school science teacher as well as incremental teachers for physical education and high school language arts for a total of $73,860. The district will use money from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief grant to pay for the positions.