For many facets of American life, COVID-19 will prove to be a catalyst for change that lasts beyond the pandemic. Superintendent Jeff Manley said he believes that will be the case for the Cavalier Public School District, which has encouraged students to become "21st century learners" to adapt to coronavirus.
"I guess (students) are a little bit more adaptable, maybe a bit more self-directed, and technology also helps with the whole collaborative piece, too, which is a lot of how the world operates right now," Manley said. "It's not just one person doing all the work, it's a group of people doing the work. So that gets them in that mindset a little bit more."
When schools shut down in the spring, Manley said it forced the district to rapidly adopt new technology. As Cavalier looks ahead to the fall semester, that's where the emphasis will remain. The district used a portion of its CARES Act funds in May to purchase additional Chromebooks for students, though the computers will not arrive before the beginning of school.
To allow for more time for additional teacher training, the first day of school has been pushed back to Sept. 1. About 440 children attend school in the Cavalier Public School District.
After North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said the decision about how to reopen their schools would be left up to the school districts, the Cavalier Public School District opted to allow families to make their own decisions.
The district's learning plans for the upcoming school year, posted to the district website Tuesday, Aug. 4, indicate that families will be asked to pick a learning option for their child by Wednesday, Aug. 12: in-person classroom learning, online distance learning through the district, or home school taught by parents. Families will be expected to commit to their chosen option for the entirety of the fall semester.
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Manley told the Herald that the Aug. 12 deadline will give the district to plan for how many students to expect in the school buildings this semester. It also will help give the district a sense of how many students will opt for home schooling outside of the district, which could potentially impact the district's per-pupil state funding of about $10,000 per student.
The school district sent a survey to the district's 250 families in July. Of those 250 families, the survey received 226 responses.
Of those, 74% of respondents indicated they would prefer face-to-face instruction at the school, 20% said they would prefer full-time school-directed distance learning, and 5% said they would prefer parent-directed home school.
Students who opt for distance learning will be considered students in the district, unlike students who opt for parent-directed home school.
If every family that indicated it would prefer a home-schooling option decided to go that route, assuming each has one child, it could result in at least 12 students leaving the district, a potential $120,000 loss to the district - and many of those families could have multiple children.
Just as the district has adapted to every other curve ball that has been thrown at it this summer, Manley said that bridge will be crossed when it comes.