Grand Forks school district considers options if pandemic threat continues into fall

Three scenarios on how school may be conducted next fall are being considered by Grand Forks school district administrators, if the coronavirus pandemic forces changes on the system, Superintendent Terry Brenner said in a city-hosted news conference on Thursday, May 14.

Administrators are looking at the possibility of “business as usual,” but with students and teachers wearing face masks and teachers also wearing face shields, Brenner said. This plan would mean everyone adhering to CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, he said.

Another option would involve students attending school in shifts, for example, a group coming into buildings in the morning and the second group coming in the afternoon, with the remainder of the day filled out with distance learning, he said, cautioning that attention would need to be paid to not overwork teachers.

A third plan would constitute a “very soft opening (whereby) students with significant learning challenges would come back to the buildings in small groups,” Brenner said.

A timeline for when parents will be informed about how schools will function beginning in late August is not known at this time, he said, because too many aspects of the coronavirus pandemic -- and the guidelines which will be in place -- are not likely to be known soon.


“As soon as we have all of the information to make those decisions, we will make them (and alert parents),” he said.

Next week will be the final week of “new learning” under the distance learning model, Brenner said, noting that “fatigue is setting in for students, teachers and certainly parents.”

In a staggered fashion, teachers will be allowed into school buildings to clean out their classrooms and a schedule for returning technology devices, following social-distancing restrictions, will be communicated to families, he said.

At high school graduations, which will be outdoor events at their respective schools, students will wear the traditional cap and gown, Brenner said, noting that specific details for graduations are being devised.

Graduates will arrive in vehicles with their families at staggered intervals, but they will exit the vehicle to walk across a stage and receive the diploma.

Ceremonies will be livestreamed and broadcast live on radio, “almost as a play-by-play production,”they will include recorded speeches, Brenner said.

Graduations are set for 7 p.m. May 28 for Community High School, 12 noon May 31 for Grand Forks Central High School, and 4 p.m. May 31 for Red River High School. In case of inclement weather, graduations will be moved inside the school buildings, he said.


Pamela Knudson is a features and arts/entertainment writer for the Grand Forks Herald.

She has worked for the Herald since 2011 and has covered a wide variety of topics, including the latest performances in the region and health topics.

Pamela can be reached at or (701) 780-1107.
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