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Challenges already present as North Dakota schools reopen

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The school year hasn’t quite kicked off for some of the larger school districts in North Dakota, but educators and lawmakers are already learning from the first week of school in smaller districts.

KX News caught up with State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler before a legislative hearing today, where she presented data already being tracked by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

In fact, we know North Dakota’s K-12 schools already have 26 positive cases: 9 students and 17 staff members. And, 66 more people were affected due to close contact.

Baesler says that’s as of Tuesday, and she expects the number is much higher. She told lawmakers that school districts are required to report cases, but she’s not sure if schools have really gotten into the routine yet.

“I’m not sure that any school district really predicted, or was able to wrap their mind around the fact that so many of their staff would be impacted so quickly in the school year. So I think that might be what we’re dealing with a little bit right now,” Baesler added.

We asked her how her department is ensuring kids don’t fall behind.

She says providing that stability is her biggest worry this school year. Baesler says every school must have a system for checking attendance, whether in person or online.

The state has also made a learning tool available for all students, with extra math, reading, and writing practice online.

“That provides instruction and lessons tailored to the unique personalized level of each student, and moves that child through their learning journey in three subject areas,” Baesler explained.

It’s called North Dakota Exact Path.

She says her department will also be tracking how many students are in the classroom and how many are virtual, including how often kids are going back and forth. This will be helpful for lawmakers who can help make adjustments as the year goes on.

She also says school district plans must basically be a living document, able to change and adjust at the drop of a hat.

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