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MPS school board to meet tonight to discuss proposal for reopening schools

Parents had plenty of questions Wednesday for Supt. Mark Vollmer about the Minot school district’s draft reopening plan.

The plan calls for students to return to school in a face-to-face classroom setting on Aug. 27. Teachers would return to work on Aug. 18.

Under the plan, teachers, students and staff would be required to wear masks in most situations and to practice stringent social distancing and hygiene requirements to avoid spreading the new coronavirus. School could move to a hybrid of distance learning and face-to-face classes with reduced class sizes or to all distance learning if there are more cases of the coronavirus reported in the area and the state downgrades its status from green to yellow or to red.

Vollmer held a series of virtual meetings on Wednesday in which he fielded questions ranging from why educators feel it’s safe for kids and teachers to return to school when they held the public informational meetings virtually to whether teachers will have to use their sick leave if they are required by the health department to go into quarantine after being exposed to the coronavirus.

Vollmer said he held the meetings virtually because it was the most effective way to reach a large number of Minot residents as quickly as they needed to and that teachers should call the human resources department about their specific situations.

Vollmer said face masks would be required in school with breaks in which kids can remove the masks. Educators understand that mask-wearing is difficult, particularly for young children. Kids will be required to provide their own face coverings and face shields qualify under the guidelines, he said.

Vollmer said the draft plan is a macro plan and other details for how it would work in different situations would be worked out.

North Dakota is currently listed at “green” under the draft plan, that means kids would be required to wear masks in hallways, common areas, when entering the building and on school buses. Stricter mask requirements and social distancing would be implemented if there are more coronavirus cases in the Minot area. Under the hybrid model, the district would also limit the number of kids in face-to-face classes and on the school bus and require enhanced cleaning and sanitizing procedures.

Other parents who submitted questions during the virtual meetings had questions about distance learning and how it will work in different situations.

Under the draft plan, parents who don’t feel safe sending their children back to school can enroll them in distance learning for the first nine weeks and possibly beyond that. Vollmer said kids will be taught by an MPS teacher if they are in distance learning but not necessarily by the classroom teacher they would have in a face-to-face setting. The district is requiring parents who are opting for distance learning to notify the school district.

The draft plan is posted on the school’s website.

The plan must still be approved by the Minot Public School Board. The board will discuss the plan when it meets at 4 p.m. today at Minot High School-Central Campus. That meeting will also be livestreamed on the district’s Youtube channel and on Facebook for those who cannot attend in person.

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