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Chairman Jamie Azure shares thoughts on students going back to school, waits on decision from Belcourt School District

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As we get closer to the start of the school year here in North Dakota, many districts are still weighing the options of in-person or virtual learning. For one leader, the answer is pretty simple.

Monday evening, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Chairman Jamie Azure released a statement on schools reopening.

“I realize that there is a school board in place, there is a BIE system, there are elected officials on that school board, but it was also important that they knew my position not only as a tribal chairman but also as a father,” said Azure.

In the one page letter, Azure says his biggest concern is protecting the reservation’s greatest demographic: its children. He says virtual learning was hard to adapt to at the end of the previous school year, but now that they know the ins and outs, things will be different.

Azure said, “We can use that as a test run.”

Azure says he’d like to see virtual learning, but others aren’t so sure. Like Dallas Chase, a parent of four who, on one hand, would like schools to open because he and his wife work, but on the other, the looming threat of a second wave has him worried.

“The COVID-19 virus is hitting hard in the southern states and it’s only a matter of time before it comes this way and it spikes. That could happen at any moment,” said Chase.

Currently, Rollette County has 13 confirmed cases and no deaths. No matter the decision, he says he hopes it is taken into deep consideration

Chase added, “I think all safety measures need to be met if they are to go back to school. Come up with a plan on how to make sure our children are safe.”

Azure says he is confident the school district will make the best decision regarding students. But if not, as a sovereign nation, the tribal government will step in to review what is best for children on the reservation.

We reached out to Belcourt’s superintendent to see if the district is close to making a decision, though we have not heard back.

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