The superintendent of Bismarck Public Schools is recommending that elementary students return to classroom full time, five days a week, beginning Sept. 29.
Students in grades 6-12 will continue to operate under a hybrid schedule -- alternating in-person classes and distance learning -- but secondary schools are working out the details of a tentative timeline and processes to move to full-time, face-to-face instruction.
Masks still would be required at all grade levels when social distancing isn't possible.
Bismarck Public Schools opened for classes Aug. 31 under a hybrid schedule in which students were split into two groups that alternate between in-person and distance learning each day.
Superintendent Jason Hornbacher in a school district statement cited low case rates among students and data from the district's newly created COVID-19 dashboard as reasons for the recommendation.
Twenty-nine students and staff tested positive for COVID-19 in a two-week span from Aug. 24 to Sept. 6, according to the dashboard. The first day of school was Aug. 31, but staff were in school buildings the week before to prepare.
Of the 29 positive cases, six were among elementary students and 14 were among secondary students. Seven elementary staff and two secondary school staff members also tested positive.
There were 258 close contacts, putting the total number of people who were in quarantine at 287. There are a total of 15,647 students and staff within the district.
One classroom has closed as a result, but the closure was limited to half the students due to hybrid scheduling, Hornbacher said in an interview.
The dashboard was created internally by district information technology staff with the specific purpose of communicating COVID-19 case information with the public, he said.
"Our long-range intent is that this is going to be updated daily," Hornbacher said. "We're still in the process of building that, so we're going to post it weekly for the time being."
A link to the dashboard can be found at www.bismarckschools.org/Page/3868 underneath a tab titled "BPS COVID Case Dashboard."
State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler previously said the state departments of Health, Public Instruction and Information Technology were working to develop a plan to provide statewide public school COVID-19 case data on a regular basis.
Each of North Dakota's 11 public colleges and universities reports coronavirus case numbers via online dashboards that can be found at cts.ndus.edu/coronavirus/.
Mandan Public Schools announced 10 positive cases among students and staff after the first five days of school. Some classrooms were closed as a result.
Reach Bilal Suleiman at 701-250-8261 or Bilal.Suleiman@bismarcktribune.com
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