Should Governor Burgum Reopen Schools Now?

In mid-March, Governor Doug Burgum issued an Executive Order closing all K-12 schools for a week. He then extended that to “until further notice” and ordered that districts “develop plans for age-appropriate distance learning”. This was, of course, an early response to the spread of COVID-19— otherwise known as Coronavirus. (Note: there was only one confirmed case at the time in North Dakota.)

Since then, feedback on how the distance learning model has been working appears to be a mixed bag of sorts. From casual observations on social media alone, it quickly became evident that there are those who love it, others that tolerate it, and some that downright despise it.

One parent I know even withdrew her children and said, “I don’t need the schools help to homeschool my kids.” Fair point. I can’t say that I blame her.

I exchanged messages with a teacher today who gave me some insight from her side of things. For obvious reasons, I can’t share her name, but at one point she told me this:

“We are currently putting grades in like normal but will be exempting any missing assignments. But they also told us that we had to fix the grades so they don’t have anything less than they had 3rd quarter.” (Emphasis Added)

And that’s not all. She continued by saying that in the beginning:

“… our assignments were things like ‘walk your dog’, ‘play a game with your family’, ‘do a hair/makeup tutorial video’, etc.”

Important stuff, I guess.

Are all districts like this? I’m not sure. (Feel free to chime in on the comments and tell us what your experience has been like with your kids or students.)

This teacher then went on to tell me that her district is going to end their online instruction early and use the remaining week of school “for collection of things”. This means they have less than 15 days of actual instruction left.

Yet, apparently the state is kicking around the possibility of sending kids back into the classroom. A representative of the state’s teachers union (North Dakota United) sent out this message today:

“We are hearing the state is considering allowing local school districts to open up. President Archuleta asked us to reach out to our members to see what you think. Would you feel safe if your school re-opened?”

The topic of reopening schools came up in a call with governors on Monday. President Donald Trump suggested some of them may want to “start thinking about school openings”.

The North Dakota Department of Public Instruction (DPI) posted this on their Facebook page earlier today:

If you watch the video mentioned in the DPI post, Governor Burgum seems less than enthusiastic to open schools back up at this point. And while we felt closures should have been a local decision in the first place, his hesitancy to open up so late in the year is certainly understandable.

If assignments given during this time of distance learning don’t account for much anyhow, and there’s only about 15 days of online instruction left, what’s the point of sending kids back?

Furthermore, there’s the unfortunate reality that K-12 schools have a number of people who are in the vulnerable category. Can districts effectively open up if a number of teachers, administrators, cooks, etc. can’t be there to do their jobs? I’m guessing that may complicate things.

At this point, I’d be fine if Burgum wanted to leave it in the hands of local school boards to make their own decisions. But perhaps it’s time better spent for state officials and school districts to begin considering what resuming classes in the fall may look like.

It’s time to just let the 2019-2020 school year play out. It is what it is. Finish the year with distance learning and be done with it.


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About T. Arthur Mason 883 Articles
T. Arthur Mason is a native North Dakotan who has spent nearly all of his life in the Peace Garden State. As the third of four children in Western North Dakota, Mason grew to appreciate family and the outdoors. Some of his fondest memories are annual deer hunts with family and friends. In his early teenage years, faith became a central part of T. Arthur Mason's life. He and the majority of his family attend church together on a weekly basis and find this a fulfilling aspect of their lives. Through the influence of his father, T. Arthur Mason became intrigued with politics. As a boy, he attended political events with his father and enjoyed the friendships that resulted as a byproduct of those political associations. As Mason grew older, he became convinced that the quote often attributed to Thomas Jefferson was true, "That government is best which governs least." Today, T. Arthur Mason enjoys time with his wife and children, an occasional hunt, and an increasingly active life on the political scene. This blog is the fulfillment of a dream to design a web site in the realm of politics and to advocate for the principles of Liberty and constitutionally limited government. On behalf of all those that contribute to The Minuteman, we hope you enjoy your time on the site and will share the message with others.