When the fall school semester starts, hallways will be crowded and classrooms will be full.
For Mandan Public Schools, hallways will not be quite as busy, as some students will continue to learn virtually in the comfort of their homes.
In April, the North Dakota Legislature passed a bill that allows school districts to offer virtual learning as an option.
Administrators with the Mandan Public Schools District say it’s something that they’re on board with.
“There are about 41,00 students. I think the vast majority of them will return to in-person, all day, every day just like we have in the past. There’s a small segment of our students who want a virtual learning education. I’m guessing we’ll have probably fewer than a hundred students,” said Dr. Mike Bitz, Mandan Public Schools superintendent.
“We just thought as a district, we can continue to do this for a niche of students that this works really well with,” said Carly Retterath, Director of Alternative Education.
If a student falls behind at any point, they’re able to make a trip to campus for personal instruction in their learning.
“The teachers in our virtual learning academy will not have any students that are in-person instruction. They will have an opportunity if a student needs help for them to come in and meet with that teacher,” said Bitz.
School administrators say learning from home is a way to offer students comfort who may really need it.
“Some absolutely, whether it’s anxiety or other mental health things that makes it easier. We have several families that do quite a bit of foster care for us. When they get a brand-new student in their home and not have a transition of school, it has been extremely helpful,” said Retterath.
If students learning from home no longer complete their coursework, they then will have to resume in-person learning and virtual learning will no longer be an option.
“We’ll provide them with an iPad like we do every other student in the district. We are one to one. You have to be logged in, you have to be meeting with your teacher, you have to be engaged,” Retterath said.
Dickinson Public Schools is another school district that will offer distance learning.