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Minot Public Schools Superintendent shares his concerns about coronavirus cases and reintegrating students

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School boards and administrations across North Dakota are busy coming up with plans to reintegrate students and teachers back into the classroom.

As the number of positive cases, deaths and hospitalizations continue to rise, those factors are likely to play a big role in each school district’s decision-making. We share concerns the Minot Public Schools Superintendent has and some input from Gov. Doug Burgum.

“It has to be based on the science of numbers. What are our infection rates in the community? And what are we doing as a community? How do we move it forward? How do we keep people safe?” said Mark Vollmer, Superintendent of Minot Public Schools.

Vollmer says those are the major questions the district is asking.

Right now, positive cases are reported by county without specifying which city. Vollmer says not knowing city by city case numbers makes it difficult for the reintegration committee to come up with a plan and to determine if the school should resume as it normally would.

“What I want to be able to do is to pinpoint within our community of Minot, what is our reality in regards to infection rates?” Vollmer said.

Gov. Burgum says it isn’t that simple.

“If you overlay our school districts, with our counties, with our public health districts, it looks like three different jigsaw puzzles. They don’t all match up. But we may want to think about, ‘Could we aggregate the data for a school board that would tell them how many positives are in their school district?'” said Gov. Burgum.

To try and determine just how many students MPS needs to plan for, staff are calling parents of elementary school students to ask if they still live in Ward County, or if they’ve moved. 

“The purpose of that phone call was not wondering if they plan to send their students based on COVID, it was we’re trying to plan for the number of students that we need to be prepared for,” Vollmer said.

Gov. Burgum also says it still hasn’t been decided whose responsibility it is to report a positive case to the school district– whether it’d be family, state or medical provider, it’s still unknown. But, he says he will have an answer before school starts. 

Vollmer says, at the end of the day, safety is the district’s No. 1 priority.

“We have families that need their kids in school, they need to be at their work. We have staff and families very concerned about the safety of all of this. We want to make the best decision moving forward. We want this to be a Minot-sized plan,” Vollmer said.

Gov. Burgum also said the decision to make students and teachers wear masks is up to each school district. He will not be issuing a mask mandate.

Vollmer says the goal is to have a plan finalized for public input by July 31.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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